Sunday, February 25, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Four [9]



This section details connections between Germany's Cold War intelligence service and various contacts within Yugoslavia. All very interesting and certainly, in the right hands, her information about continued contacts with Croatian nationalists both within Yugoslavia and around the world might have added an informative nuance to our understanding of the Yugoslav wars. In Johnstone's clumsy hands, however, this information provides us with no insights whatsoever. We are simply told that such contacts existed, and some of them are detailed. And that's pretty much it. The reader is to infer the worst from what for the most part are neither surprising nor illuminating revelations. I'm sorry, but "covert intelligence services maintain contacts in other nations where their country has been involved" is not exactly ground-shaking.

While she has at least gone to the trouble of padding her story of an ongoing Croat/German connection based on a shared fascist history with some espionage backstory, she then moves abruptly to assert the same fascist synergy with Albanians, based on nothing more than personal and historical connections to the World War II regime. Hitler apparently liked the Albanian landscape and its people, which is sufficient to damn them in her eyes. To her, the KLA was nothing more than a rebirth of the Nazi-sponsored far-right Albanian nationalist movement from the war period. Albanians were always Serb-hating latent fascists, and the Germans gave them the weapons and the moral support to unleash their terror on the Serb civilians of Kosovo. In a mere three paragraphs, she has asserted that Germany was responsible for the violence in Kosovo as well.

Those evil Nazis had Serbia surrounded. Cue the soundtrack.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Four [8]



This is tiring. The worst thing about conspiracy theorists is that they just won't stop; they invest so much energy and time into constructing their alternate reality it's difficult to keep up. Johnstone's barrage of pointless detail and her carefully constructed edifice of selective facts isn't as imposing as she would like to believe it is, but it is maddeningly elusive. Like any conspiracy theorist, she keeps the reader distracted with peripheral issues and sinister-seeming quotes from disparate individuals while failing to address her own central argument--that Germany is primarily responsible for breaking up Yugoslavia and unleashing the wars that ravaged that now-defunct country.

I very much doubt that any person reading this blog is unfamiliar with the unfortunate consequences of Germany's rash decision to recognize Slovenia and Croatia (the European Community's ridiculously narrow window of opportunity to apply for recognition also played a big part, but since Hitler didn't rule the EC Johnstone isn't interested in this angle--it doesn't have the same pizazz to blame bureaucrats in Brussels). I also doubt that anyone reading this blog is unaware of the political conditions in Yugoslavia at the moment of Germany's unilateral actions.

The myth of German responsibility for the war simply doesn't stand up to even the most cursory scrutiny; considering her general evasiveness and her tendency to rapidly skirt around incidents and facts rather than dwelling long enough to give her reader a chance to pause and reflect on the logical and factual inconsistencies in her arguments, it's rather surprising that she has chosen to devote an entire chapter to this ridiculous premise. Perhaps she hopes to overcome her audience with sheer volume. There might be some merit to this tactic: I'm finding myself growing increasingly unwilling to even engage her "ideas" by this point. For most of this book, she has been wrong-headed, factually inaccurate, and unwisely or immorally premised. But her analysis always seemed grounded in some warped view of reality. In this chapter, however, the connections she is trying to draw are not merely tenuous and ill-advised, they simply don't exist. She might as well claim that the Freemasons were behind the breakup of Yugoslavia; it would be plenty easy to marshal just as much evidence to support that theory.

Still, this chapter contains a few howlers worth commenting on.


After snidely describing the reunification of Germany as "a unilateral takeover of the German Democratic Republic in the East by the Federal Republic of Germany" (another Western plot against an innocent socialist victim, no doubt), Johnstone makes it clear that anyone who took German assurances that they would not be repeating "the aggressive policies of the Third Reich" were dupes. Note that she does not hedge her bets with something along the lines of a return to "traditional German militarism" or some other reference to expansionist and militaristic German tendencies dating to the Prussian state; she specifies the Third Reich. Her reference point is the Nazi period; the decision to set Hitler's foreign policy as the bar which post-1990 German policy in the Balkans will be judged is hers, not mine.

This is the same Diana Johnstone who considers comparisons between the horrors of Srebrenica to the Holocaust to be rash and driven by emotional hyperbole rather than a sober consideration of the facts. Can we expect her to apply this rigorous standard to evocations of Nazi aggression when discussing NATO actions in Yugoslavia?

We shall see in future sections. This one dwells, at some length, on reunification and the sinister implications of the rebirth of a united Germany in the heart of Europe. And in case there is any doubt that she blames Bonn rather than Belgrade for the carnage in Yugoslavia, there is this little gem:

"Although Germany's support to the breakaway republics dealt a fatal blow to the peaceful life together enjoyed by Yugoslavia's peoples,..."

She then implies that Germany took in Serb refuges only to transfer Nazi war guilt onto individual war criminals; she lists three specific cases tried in German courts by request of the ICTY, all of which she implies were not only questionable cases but which were typical of German harshness with individual Serbs, who could serve as scapegoats for Germany's Nazi past.

She closes this crass and intellectually bankrupt section with this howler:

"The exceptional readiness of German courts to condemn Serbs contrasts disturbingly with the absence of any proceedings against Wehrmacht officers who massacred thousands of hostages in occupied Serbia in 1941."

First, I should note that she has earlier pointed out that no German courts took responsibility for trying Nazi war criminals after World War II. The fact that the Allies dealt out victor's justice at Nuremberg and had no interest in allowing German courts that kind of jurisdiction--especially when complete de-Nazification was not yet accomlished--should be blindingly obvious, but this is Diana Johnstone we're talking about. And why the reader should be shocked that German courts wouldn't try officers for war crimes during the Nazi period is beyond me.

And that is the end of this section--four pages of screeching "The Nazis are back!"

Thursday, February 22, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Four [7]



This section is the Twilight Zone of Johnstone's book--for four pages, Johnstone argues strongly against the very mentality that has underlined her book to this point. Why the discrepancy? Because this time, the people who are preaching ethnic unity and the incompatibility of that unity with secular, cosmopolitan democracy are Germans.

Her ability to discern national conspiracies, mass movements, and sinister foreign policy strategies based on the words and deeds of a handful of NGOs based in Germany (or supported by German foundations) is impressive. I've no doubt that there is something to her critique, in a limited way--Germany and Austria most likely have encouraged the self-determination of a wide variety of smaller nationalities throughout Eastern Europe. And I'm sure they did so for very cynical reasons--what better way to undermine the new European order after the German Empire had been diminished and the Austrian no more?

This section discusses a hodgepodge of different groups, founded in different places at different times--all the better to mix them together in order to create the illusion of a unified social, cultural, and political crusade. Johnstone insists that the attempts between the two World Wars to stir up nationalism in the East, and the call by another group in 1971 to overcome national boundries, were linked. In her version of history, there can be no doubt that they were; but considering that nearly fifty years, and a great deal of history, separate these two examples one would hope for at least a modicum of elucidation. None is forthcoming.

She doesn't even miss a beat when she compares this organization's call--in 1971, remember--to turn national borders into administrative borders to the German push

"--in Yugoslavia--to transform administrative borders into national frontiers. The apparent contradiction is explained by the fact that in both cases German influence increased."

The fiction that Bosnia's borders were mere administrative divisions has been soundly and decisively refuted; her continued use of this tired and easily disproved propaganda lie is remarkably brazen and sloppy. You see her theme--the Germans were only interested in independence for Slovenia and Croatia because this would expand the German sphere of influence.

She has discussed the Alpen-Adria before, and its role in the breakup of Yugoslavia. After touching on this again, she goes on to warn ominously that German nation-destroying will not end with Yugoslavia. Every minority, no matter how ill-defined, had the potential right of self-determination. She is correct to point out that this process is dangerous because national identities were still being formed in Europe, and that the process as described by these--again, non-governmental--groups could potentially empower a savvy elite. Without even bothering to note that these are merely lobbying groups, not the Wehrmacht spreading ethnic fragmentation and discord at the point of a bayonet, it is fascinating to read Johnstone discussing such valid and nuanced criticisms of the concept of nationalism and national identity in the same book which is so heavily premised on the homogeneous and static nature of Serb nationalism. Ms. Johnstone is fluent in several languages, but she seems to have acquired the word for "irony" in any of them.

And the irony builds--this German ideology of the Volkstate is a direct threat to democracy since the concept of majority rule is contrary to the well-being of a minority operating under the principle of collective identity. And any minority will automatically be oppressed by the majority in a multi-national nation-state. I have to wonder--has the women read her own book?

What does this all mean? Well, it means that Germans hate the Serbs, since you will remember that the Serbs are a "nation-building" people, versus the "nation-splitting" Croats. Another "nation-splitting" people? The Kosovar Albanians, who have been getting a lot of attention in this section. Albanians, you might remember from far earlier in the book, are prone to be fascists. So says the lady who's indignant at German attempts to create collective identities for the smaller peoples of Europe.

It's instructive that her objection to the German doctrine of the "rights of minorities" could, word for word, apply to a critique of any collectivist national identity--it undermines the concept of individual liberty. It is truly amazing that she could write this section on the heels of the 176 pages which preceded it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Four [6]



A short section which can be easily summed up--after World War II ended (my--that was quick!) ethnic Germans were expelled from countries throughout Eastern Europe. These millions of expelled Germans formed a sizable, and motivated, political bloc within post-WWII Germany.

Leaving that at that, Johnstone then quotes Vertirbener (the term translates as "driven out" and refers to these expelled Germans) Rupert Neudeck, who openly sympathized with Muslim rape victims on an emotional level, since he remembered the mass rapes that German women suffered during the advance of the Red Army during the war. Rather than empathizing with him, or at least allowing that the man had his reasons for his strong feelings, Johnstone cooly opines that his judgement was distorted, even as the emotional nature of his appeal increased their impact.

Johnstone believes that the vertriebene like Neudeck deliberately and systematically transposed German memories of Red Army mass rapes with Serbian atrocities in Bosnia. In other words, she psychoanalyzes the German publics collective reaction to the news coming from the former Yugoslavia.

She conclude with the implication that the very notion of "ethnic cleansing" was a German construct imposed on the situation by way of transferring German guilt about World War II into self-righteous indignation at the atrocities suffered by German women at the hands of barbaric Slavic aggressors.

And that is how this bizarre little section ends.

Monday, February 19, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Four [5]



Johnstone summarizes the development of German foreign policy towards Eastern Europe (and specifically the Balkans) in this section. She begins in the closing months of World War I, when Prince Max von Baden submitted a paper suggesting that Germany should couch its imperialist ambitions in idealistic language. "Ethical" is the word used.

I did not adequately discuss the end of the previous sections: Johnstone argues that the ideal of the folk-state is incompatible with the modern nation-state, because the folk-state is not only ethnically homogenous but also predicated on the notion that a people fixed into a certain kind of social (and, by implication, political) development. On this point I absolutely agree with her. Apparently, this is bad when Germans believe it, but not when Radovan Karadzic does.

What von Baden was getting at was this--Germany should present its eastern imperialism as an enlightened liberation of small peoples. This would create a new monolithic political entity out of fragmentation, to counter other non-German powers in the region.

Ignoring that she is merely discussing a paper submitted by a member of the nobility in the twilight of the German Empire, Johnstone plunges ahead with her contention that she has exposed a constant--and fundamental--theme in German foreign policy towards the Balkans. Berlin and Vienna were already engaged in such a policy, she avers--ignoring that all the Great Powers were meddling in the Balkans at the time.

The Weimer Republic was committed to continuing this policy after the redrawing of Europe's map at Versailles, according to Johnstone. I am no expert on German history; she might very well be correct, but what of it? Besides the loss of territory, there were large German populations across Eastern Europe, and the the long-term stability and legitimacy of the new nations of Eastern Europe could hardly be considered a settled matter to all German citizens. In light of Nazi aggression and atrocities, it is of course difficult to empathize with German grievances in the inter-war period, but just because Johnstone insists on casting the Nazi shadow over all of German history does not mean the rest of us must follow suit.

Still, it must be conceded that she is correct when she asserts that those estranged German minorities did indeed provide the pretext for Nazi expansion in the period leading up to World War II. It's instructive to note that she even uses the word 'pretext' as I just did, even as she simplistically asserts that this 'pretext' was, in fact, the substance of German foreign policy predating the rise of the Third Reich.

She closes with the observation that the Nazis sought to break up the countries they occupied or conquered by selectively 'liberating' certain aggrieved national minorities. This policy would be most effective in the east, where nationalism had come late and state-building was on shaky ground. While cynical--and utilized for loathsome ends--this policy was certainly rational, from the Nazi point of view. What are the implications of this policy in practice?

Johnstone--remarkably--says absolutely nothing about this. Nothing. This section ends with the above observation; the next section picks up after World War II ended. As always, she implies without elaboration or sustained analysis. She has the reader thinking that the horrors of Nazi policy in the east were actually merely the manifestation of ongoing German policy towards the region; to dwell too long on the point might weaken the vague impression she has managed to create. Time to move on.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Four [4]



Johnstone's determination to prove German responsibility for war in Yugoslavia is tiring. It's easy to understand why some of her admirers praise her erudition and wide-ranging field of knowledge--she's willing to go far and wide in search of quotes and anecdotes which fit the script she's writing. Her work in this section is quite impressive.

First, she quotes Rupert Scholz on the "consequences of World War I," in comments that she then attributes to a broad effort to whitewash German actions in the Balkans in both World Wars. Scholz maintained that Germans had a historic mandate to demonstrate solidarity in the region, specifically with Slovenia and Croatia.

Johnstone makes a crucial mistake next--she assumes that she can misrepresent the meaning of a quote simply because she has taken it out of context. Here is the quote:

" "Once such a recognition is carried out, then the Yugoslav conflict is no longer a matter of an internal political problem of Yugoslavia, in which there should be no international intervention," he pointed out. "

She then attempts to summarize the gist of Scholz's comments for him:

"Once Croatian and Slovenia were recognized as independent states, it would be possible, by obtaining an UN Security Council mandate, to exercise "international security responsibility" by means of military intervention."

And now she tells the reader what she wishes you to believe Scholz's meaning really was:

"Scholz's meaning was clear: rapid recognition of Croatia and Slovenia was designed not--as was officially claimed by the German government--to prevent military conflict, but to internationalize it, in order to justify outside military intervention, with German participation, under the auspices of either the UN or the OSCE."

[As always, underlined words in quoted passages were italicized in the original text.]

Johnstone's attempt to alter the rather clear meaning of Scholz's quote is clumsy and obvious; a sign that she is less shrewd and more deluded than I suspected earlier in this book. I no longer think she is a cynical ally of Serbian ultra-nationalism. I think she believes in her paranoid fantasies.


The rest of this section consists of a chronological leap that defies rational analysis. She quotes Scholz (who, in Johnstone's alternate universe, is apparantly vested with the authority to speak for all Germans at all times) speaking against calls for stability for its own sake (I'm paraphrasing slightly). His point was that a rigid insistence on existing borders might trap a people within a state hostile to their well-being or rights. He spoke of "unwanted" and "unnatural" states.

What did he mean by that? It's a good question, especially considering the ideology of the Bosnian Serb Republic versus the reality of Bosnia. Does Johnstone see the irony? Of course not--she is focused on the Germans. And for the next page and half, she segues from Scholz's 1991 speech to the writings and policies of--you guessed it--Adolf Hitler, without blinking an eye. In her telling, Scholz was merely articulating an old German idea of the "volk-state," an ethnic entity that trumped the civil state. Hitler was just one end of a consistent German spectrum of thought on the subject.

If you would like to discuss Johnstone's summary of Hitler's vision for the Third Reich, it's on page 170 of this book. In the next section, she attempts to elaborate the continuity of racialist, expansionist foreign policy in German from the time of the Kaisers right up to UN peacekeeping missions in Yugoslavia. You've been warned.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"Fool's Crusade" Chapter Four [3]



After a few sentences detailing a "vehement press campaign" that supposedly turned the German public against the Serbs (considering that she only quotes a handful of print journalists and their--admittedly widely circulated--magazines, she must consider Germans either particularly easy to dupe or primed and ready to hate at a moments notice), Johnstone embarks on a critique of German involvement in the Yugoslav wars (yes, the entire chapter--one out of five in the whole book--is just on Germany) that is, if nothing else, novel--she ignores chronology altogether.

Others have already noted that Johnstone and others have blamed German recognition of Slovenia and Croatia for igniting a war which was already, at that point, in the works. What I mean is something more brazen--she skips around from decade to decade, pulling quotes from the Nazi period and from the time of Bismark, all to illustrate the true nature of German foreign policy in the 1990s. And what's more, she apparently means for the reader to take this seriously.

She moves back and forth from era to era shamelessly, such as in this quote:

"Nineteen months after German reunification, and for the first time since Hitler's defeat in 1945, the German media resounded with condemnation of an entire ethnic group reminiscent of the pre-war propaganda against the Jews."

In her version of reality, Germans had striven to mend fences with the victims of Nazi aggression, but this "stopped short when it came to the Serbs."

The quote "Serbia must die" was, as she openly admits, from 1914. To her, this is relevant because Germany in 1991 was following down a well-worn historic path, once again going on an aggressive campaign to punish and/or eliminate the troublesome nation of Serbia.

This section is only a little over two pages long; a full page of which is taken up with a detailed description of Nazi reprisal killing policy in occupied Serbia during WW II. This section contains more hard figures and data than entire previous chapters had, when applied to the Muslim and Croat communities. Other than wallowing in war porn, the only possible point of this section might be to illustrate Serb fears of German interference. Which is not what she discusses in the next section.

And that, honestly, is all there is to this section--the German press vilified Serbia in 1991; Nazis did bad things in Serbia in 1941. This is the foundation on which Johnstone will build her thesis.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Four [2]



Not much time to post at the moment, and at any rate it wouldn't hurt to allow another day for anyone who reads this blog from time to time to really soak in that last quote.

Just to wrap up this short, one-page opening to part one:

Johnstone, having laid her cards on the table regarding Germany, elaborates her theory that Germany embarked on a superficial crusade of humanitarian interventionism in the Balkans ostensibly to atone for its Nazi past but actually to continue traditional German--and, yes, Nazi--policies of expansionism in the East and military aggression against Balkan nations. The presence of Green politician Joschka Fischer as foreign minister gave the new crusade a facade of progressive respectability.

Which is where she closes this rather startling opening. In the next post, we will see that the Nazi smear isn't her usual throwing-mass-innuendo-at-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks strategy; she is going to run as far as she can with this theme.

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Four [1]



Part 1 of Chapter Four, "Germany is Born Again," is a long section in which Johnstone--who never ceases to bemoan imprecise Holocaust parallels in discussions about Srebrenica--makes the extended argument that reunified Germany after 1990 embarked on a continuation of Nazi foreign policy. Having alluded to this previously in the book, she proceeds to devote 29 pages to this curious thesis.

After pointing out that the Yugoslav crisis allowed newly reunified Germany to flex its diplomatic muscle within Europe for the first time, and noting also Germany's push for recognition of Slovenia and Croatia (admittedly hasty acts which Balkan revisionists generally point to as somehow demonstrating German guilt for the outbreak of war), she poses some very odd questions:

"Which Germany was this? Was it the old Germany of Kaiser Wilhelm and the Third Reich pursuing its centuries-old Drang nach Osten? Or was this a new Germany, purified by penitence for the Holocaust, henceforth devoted solely to the universal promotion of democracy, civil society, and human rights" Or was it, in some very odd way, a combination of both?"

Johnstone never runs out of strawmen to joust with--the second option is, of course, impossibly idealistic and laughable. This is a frequent strategy of hers--to create an impossibly idealistic caractiture of her opponents so their views appear easy to refute.

But you see where she's going here--Germany is either the rebirth of Nazism, or the world's first purely altruistic nation. Or, she suggsts, a combination of both.

Can't wait to see what that would look like? Well, this chapter is just for you! Because Johnstone goes on to claim that German foreign policy in the Balkans was a blend of "ideals and interests", which wouldn't be notable except that she honestly believes this is somehow unique. At any rate, don't think for a second Johnstone has taken her eye off the ball:

"For Germans, assertion of humanitarian ideals as justification for foreign intervention was widely understood as a form of compensation for their Nazi past. And yet, ironically, this intervention can be shown to have marked a return (consciously or, more often, unconsciously) to precisely the forms of foreign intervention characteristic of traditional German power politics, notably as pursued by the Nazis."

Let that soak in for a day or two. We'll pick up from there in the next post.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Three [32]



With the finish line in sight, Johnstone decides to spend the final three pages of Chapter Three going for broke. For some reason, even though this section is in part 3, ostensibly a discussion of Croatian nationalism, we're no longer talking about Croatian nationalism, or Croats, or nationalism. Johnstone has chosen to end this chapter with the previously discussed Islamic menace that Bosnia allegedly represented. This is standard Serb nationalist propaganda from the war. Johnstone puts a novel twist on it, however, arguing that US support for Muslim support for Bosnia was designed to legitimize US support for Israel.

Well, when you think about it, isn't it crystal clear?

She also manages to throw Hitler into the mix--US support for the Bosnian Muslims was a way of demonstrating US sympathy for Muslims to oil-rich Muslim countries just like Hitler during WWII:

"In 1942, Hitler sought to extend the power of the Third Reich eastward to the oilfields of Baku and the Middle East by exploiting Arab Muslim resentment of British imperialism in the Middle East, which had favored Jewish settlement in Palestine. The Bosnian Muslims appeared to be a useful pawn in the game of gaining Muslim support for Hitler's war aims. In 1992, U.S. support to the Bosnian Muslims helped solidify Washington's geostrategic alliance with rich oil-producing Muslim states."

If you ever read any of Johnstone's writings on Srebrenica, take note of how scornful she is of parallels between the genocide there and the Holocaust. She never tires of lecturing Westerners about lazy comparisons and knee-jerk references to Hitler and the Holocaust when discussing Bosnia. Remember the above-quoted passage, if you ever do come across such a statement. The hypocrisy is blatant, and shameless.

And so she is off, protesting blatant violations of the arms embargo by wealthy Muslim states as they armed their co-religionists clandestinely while oil-whore Americans pretended not to notice. She gives no numbers, of course, nor does she mention that smuggled small arms and a few hundred (or even a few thousand) mujahideen could never fully address the military imbalance that a landlocked rebublic building a military from scratch while surrounded by hostile or at least mercenary nations, one of which had inherited the heavy weapons, supplies, and infrastructure of the fourth-largest army in Europe.

It scarcely matters. She gives one example of rich Saudis voicing support for Bosnia's Muslims by nixing a deal to buy aircraft from a French company. And the Saudis provided financial support for Bosnia, she points out. This is neither surprising nor interesting; the Saudis have lots of money, and nobody should be surprised that they took the opportunity to proselytize and lobby for greater influence in a Muslim community previously not very open to Wahhabi fundamentalism. Building mosques and sending money certainly indicates an attempt to broker influence; Johnstone fails to address the short-term or long-term effects of Saudi support. But, as I said in the previous post, she is not presenting an argument, but rather a vague implication fueled by thinly veiled bigotry.


And so Chapter Three sputters to a halt, after an obligatory dig at the US government for allowing the war to go on for four years solely so an eventual partition of the country to its liking could be imposed. The implication being that the US didn't allow the partition by "local leaders" in 1992 solely because the balance of power wasn't to Washington's liking. Also, this allowed the creation of a non-sovereign state run by international organizations, the IMF as well as the OSCE. This, apparently, was the US plan all along.

Why the US would want to have control over relatively poor Bosnia is a question she doesn't address. Her elaborate theories about the destruction of sovereignty in the name of globalization only sound plausible if one ignores that fundamental question--why would Washington desire such a situation? Twin paranoias are at work here; not only has Johnstone sold herself on the messianic martyr complex of hardline Serb nationalism, she demonstrates again that she meant what she said way back at the beginning of this book. Western involvement in the Balkans was a cleverly calculated tactic, intended to be a vanguard of a larger strategy of neoliberal globalization, the subjugation of small states to Western-dominated international organizations.

Yes, dear reader--all that stumbling and prevaricating by Western powers in Bosnia during those terrible four years were just a front. Behind the scenes, Washington had it all figured out.

And that bizarro conspiracy scenario is the note on which Johnstone chooses to end this tedious, unfocused chapter.

Friday, February 02, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Three [31]



Johnstone delivers what she imagines is her final coup de grace to Bosnia's legitimacy. She has already claimed that Bosnia and Hercegovina was an artificial entity, nothing but an administrative region from the Communist period. She has also poo-poohed the notion that there was any such thing as Bosnian nationalism; nor can there be, in her opinion, any such thing as "Bosnians" at all. There were merely Croats and Serbs, and Muslim converts mistakenly given a national identity in recent memory. Now, she claims that Bosnia could not exist outside of Yugoslavia at all.

She makes this claim in order to set up a paragraph explaining the premise (and title) of this section.

"In this situation, [see above] there were two dimensions of "outside" interference: interference from other parts of disintegrating Yugoslavia, and interference from further away."

Finally! At last! Johnstone has brought up the taboo subject of Belgrade's role in the Bosnian war. She might try and explain away some of Milosevic's responsibility, but surely she cannot avoid this uncomfortable subject, now that she herself has brought it up.


"The interference from Yugoslavia has been benign and unifying."

I did a double-take as well; but to be fair, she goes on to say this:

"As Yugoslavia disintegrated, the conflict pitting Croats against Serbs immediately affected Bosnia in a negative way."

Yet even here where she seems to be acknowledging reality, she hedges her telling so that she manages to avoid explicitly saying what any reader of this blog knows:

"The Serbs of the Croatian Krajina were politically close to the Serbs of the Bosnian Krajina, forming a single nationalist political party to the right of the Serbian Socialist Party of Milosevic in Serbia itself. Rejecting the break-up of Yugoslavia as illegal, Serbs saw nothing wrong with aiding fellow Serbs within Yugoslavia."

Well, that might seem reasonable enough to an uninformed reader (i.e. Johnstone's ideal audience), and there is of course some basis in fact; Milosevic's Socialist Party was, after all, Socialist and therefore was to the left of an avowedly nationalist, even racist, party. Credit Johnstone--she's a little more artful than usual in taking liberties with reality--"Serbs saw nothing wrong with aiding fellow Serbs" indeed. Milosevic, one might almost conclude, just happened to be the guy in charge of Serbia at the time.

As for other interference within Yugoslavia, she naturally mentions Croatia and Croat designs on Western Hercegovina. She also stresses the connection Slavic Muslims outside Bosnia felt towards the republic, especially Muslims from the Sandzak. Which is accurate enough, except that Johnstone clearly intends to imply some sort of equivalence between the three groups. This is nonsense, of course--not only were Slavic Muslims outside Bosnia few in number compared to Serbs in Serbia and Croats in Croatia, they lacked the support of the state they lived in. Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia had the covert support of the Serbian state, which had inherited much institutional power from Yugoslavia, including the JNA, of course. This not only demonstrates her dishonesty about the role played in Bosnia by the Milosevic regime, it also underlines her groupthink mentality.

As for outside interference, it should come as no surprise that she means, firstly, the US and Europe. As I alluded in the post regarding the creation of the Croat-Muslim Federation, Johntone fantasizes about a US involvement which was much more active and intrusive from the beginning. The first Bush administration wanted nothing to do with Bosnia, and the Clinton administration was more than happy to leave the mess on Europe's plate for as long as possible. But that is a reality that simply does not reinforce Johnstone's anti-imperialist thesis, so like all inconvenient truths, she ignores it.

This is where she really tries to cash in on the implied Islamic menace she's been building up throughout this section; outside interference from the various Muslim countries which provided aid and support (and a few hundred mujahideen) to Bosnia. Her attempts to exaggerate the size and impact of Islamist support for Bosnia's Muslim-led government is just a page out of the Serb nationalist playbook. Since she provides no data, no examples, no statistics--no evidence whatsoever--it would be giving her too much credit to discuss the genuine concern that secular supporters of the Bosnian cause had with the mujahideen presence in Bosnia. Johnstone doesn't have enough regard for the complexities of reality to merit a sincere rebuttal. She is not presenting an argument, but rather a vague implication fueled by thinly veiled bigotry.

The conclusion of this section--and of Chapter Three--will be discussed in the next post.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Three [30]



This is the final section of Chapter Three. In it, Johnstone allows some of her most paranoid and peculiar fantasies to run free.

The previous section ended with the eventual downfall of Fikret Abdic and his rebel Muslim statelet in the Bihac pocket. From this unfortunate sideshow, Johnstone draws this conclusion:

"The story of Abdic illustrates the fact that the International Community rejected all forms of administrative division of Bosnia-Herzegovina--if worked out between local leaders themselves."

This is a "fact," then? Given that the preeminent "local leader in Bosnia"--Alija Izetbegovic, President of the internationally recognized government of the sovereign nation of Bosnia and Hercegovina--had no interest in carving up his country at all, this is a startling claim.

Her slim basis for this "fact" is the US-sponsored (some would say "bullied," which I honestly do not have a problem with) Muslim-Croat Federation. Johnstone rightly points out that it was a creation of the United States, participated in with no real enthusiasm by the Muslim SDA and rather cynically by the Croat HDZ. She points to the division of Mostar and the continued existence of the Croat statelet of Herce-Bosna as proof, as if anyone were disputing the point. More nuance, I suppose.

The next paragraph argues that the creation of the Federation strengthened the three nationalist parties. Which is laughable--there was a brutal war going on. A genocidal war. How much more polarized could things have become? Yet Johnstone insists that it was the US creation of the Muslim-Croat Federation which really entrenched the SDS, SDA, and HDZ in power.

There is almost a good point buried in this part of her book; one cause of the breakdown of peace in Bosnia was the unfortunate fact that political life in the republic became absolutely dominated by three explicitly ethnic, nationalist parties. These three parties became closely identified with their respective ethnic groups, blurring the distinction between their platforms and the actual interests of the peoples they allegedly represented. But Johnstone only brings up this point in order to heap scorn on any notion that the war in Bosnia was between civic and ethnic nationalism; by focusing on the composition of the leadership, she can avoid the real-world actions and rhetoric of the different parties.

Hopping from one bogus point to the next with no narrative or intellectual continuity, she claims that the Federation was reminiscent of the Ustashe Independent State of Croatia from World War II on the basis of absolutely nothing. She offers not the slightest wisp of flimsy evidence to base this claim on. The West, she goes on to claim, were deluded about the real nature of Bosnia and therefore easily duped into buying into the myth of an evil Milosevic bent on nationalist violence. And this, she finally claims, provided cover for the Islamic world to prop up Izetbegovic.

Even though she has already trod down this road before, I am still a little shocked that Johnstone has chosen to embrace and promote even this, the most outrageous of the Serbian nationalist claims. But she has, and she continues, to warn her credulous ideal reader about the Islamic menace behind Izetbegovic and the SDA.

But before she gets to that, she goes into more detail about the two kinds of intervention--inside and outside--there were in Bosnia, in her version of the story. We will examine those in the next post.