Monday, April 30, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [18]


3. THE TRIUMPH OF HATRED [continued]

I should note that we are only 16 pages from the end of the book. Perhaps that explains the unabashed crudeness of her anti-Albanian ranting at this point. Or perhaps this is merely the logical and inevitable culmination of just over 250 pages of tribalism, groupthink, collective guilt and the crudest strain of ultra-nationalism. It is possible that this is what happens when an unreconstructed ideologue of the Old Left, grasping for an anti-Western horse to hitch her wagon to, accepts the logic of a slightly older and far more primitive form of collectivism. This, then, is what passes for "progressive" in the moral universe of Edward Herman, Michael Parenti, Noam Chomsky, and our own Diana Johnstone.

"For the NATO powers, all this incitement to hatred was ephemeral war propaganda and could soon be forgotten. The effect on the peoples involved was much more damaging. Portraying the Serbs as inhuman could only further enflame a much more passionate and dangerous hatred: the hatred of the Albanians towards the Serbs. Albanian Kosovars could no longer resist the most extreme Albanian racist incitement against Serb neighbors when the greatest world powers, the United States and Germany, endorsed the view that Serbs were wicked people, plotting genocide.

"The double standards of the NATO powers enforced the tendency of the Albanians themselves to say and believe the worse of the Serbs."

It goes on like that a little longer, but the perceptive reader should already be shaking his or her head at statements such as "the tendency of the Albanians themselves to say and believe the worse of the Serbs."

There is really nothing to say. Once one has accepted the premise of collective identity and both collective and generational guilt, unsubtle bigotry such as the comments quoted above are inevitable.

It is interesting again to note how Johnstone views the people of the Balkans--almost as animals, responding unthinkingly to outside stimuli they are helpless to resist and incapable of analyzing.

We are then treated to a litany of stories about the fate of ethnic Serbs stranded in Kosovo after the KLA came to power. There is no defense for the atrocities meted out by KLA members and other ethnic Albanians. I condemn any and all actions of terrorism, revenge, and retributive violence. It is tragic that, as in the Krajina in Croatia, ethnic Serb civilians were abandoned by Milosevic, left to the mercy of vindictive forces, and mostly ignored by a Western media which all too often portrayed the crises in the former Yugoslavia as black-and-white struggles between ethnic groups. The tragedy for these forgotten Serbs is that, all too often, the people speaking on their behalf are people like Diana Johnstone.

We then are informed that the mass graves discovered in Kosovo after the war contained "only" a few thousand bodies. Again, Johnstone puts the word "genocide" in quotes, illustrating that she either truly doesn't understand how broad the definition of the word is or doesn't care. Or, more likely, deliberately wants to mislead the reader. For the honest, inquiring, and at least slightly informed reader, she has long since ceded the benefit of the doubt.

The section ends with a pastiche of the troubles wracking the region post-war. There is no denying that the situation in Kosovo was, and remains, troubling--the ascendancy of the thuggish KLA was no victory for secular civic society. The afore-mentioned revenge killings against ethnic Serb civilians were loathsome acts, no matter what the motivations were. And the ongoing criminalization of society threatens the very fabric of society. If Johnstone is truly concerned about the future of the Western Balkans, she has stumbled across a very good subject.

The fate of Kosovo and of the peoples living there is a matter of contemporary concern--Kosovo is in the news a lot right now, and if the proposed independence goes through I fear the news will become much grimmer. There are many issues at play in the region, and many underlying causes for the brittle state of civil society at the moment. But Johnstone is not interested in such complexities; nor is she interested in appreciating the diversity of viewpoints and experiences such a cultural crossroads is bound to contain. For her, it's all about hatred--a hatred which is carried in the genes or in the blood or maybe only in the cultural zeitgeist of one group. She complains hysterically about an alleged Western plot to smear all Serbs as genocidal monsters. Now she tells us that Albanians are chronic, unyielding haters who are helpless to control their homicidal passions when provoked. What does she think should be done with them? She leaves that point eerily unanswered.


That concludes my critique of this meandering slab of bigoted invective. There is one more short section before Chapter Five plods to an end. And then a ten-page conclusion.

Believe it or not, I only have 13 pages to go before I am finally finished with this horrible, hateful book. The finish line is in sight!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [17]


3. THE TRIUMPH OF HATRED [continued]

Just about everyone, it seems, was a propagandist for NATO--even Professor Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, chair of Holocaust studies at Harvard. His call for a thorough overhaul of Serbian culture is presented as if he were an important policy maker instead of an academic giving his point of view. In a chapter full of quotes pulled helter-skelter from out of context in order to create a portrait of monolithic Western opinion on the matter, the three paragraphs she dedicates to his comments are perhaps the unintentional highlight, revealing just how wide she threw her net in an effort to garner enough quotes to fill her quota.

Then Johnstone returns to her favorite sport--boxing with strawmen. Western exposes of Serb military tactics and reports of Bosnia-style concentration camps are examples of Western observers who

"...passed along to the public any wild tale portraying the Serbs as monsters."

even though the quotes she present do no such thing. This is a revealing slip--she is so wrapped up in condemning entire groups of individuals on the basis of their supposed collective identity that she cannot avoid taking the comments of others in the same light. So, therefore, denunciations of actions by the political leadership in Belgrade and of the Serb military forces become, in her mind, attacks on all Serbs. Her analysis of the situation is hampered by her own tribalist, anti-individualist mentality.

Again, I could start a fairly active blog devoted to little else but NATO hypocrisies, blunders, and missteps in the former Yugoslavia; if Johnstone were interested in an honest assessment of the West's muddled handling of the crises of the 1990s I might be more inclined to rebut some of her insinuations. But that is all they are--she gathers disparate information and presents it as "evidence" without ever articulating what it might be evidence for. Initial reports of atrocities were often inaccurate and distorted, it is true. It would not have been very hard to follow up on some of the more extreme claims repeated by some Western observers. She does no such thing.

And what about all those thousands of Albanian refugees? Wouldn't their testimony be of some use in interpreting events at the time? Don't be silly--as we shall see in the next post, they were too filled with insane hatred to be trusted.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [16]


3. THE TRIUMPH OF HATRED [continued]

Johnstone now details what she says were the changing motives behind the war:

"What were the true objectives of the NATO war against Yugoslavia? How did the means employed correspond to those objectives?"

These are worthwhile questions, and worthy of serious analysis and sustained study. Johnstone gives them all of one page, just enough to time to present of motley assortment of quotes from various sources, some of whom actually having been directly a part of the NATO effort.

Johnstone has set her sights low--the Kosovo War was a tough sell to an indifferent public, and often the rhetoric of Clinton Administration officials and even the President himself chose sloppy hyperbole over reasoned argument. When you also consider the political compromises that hampered war planning and restricted the options open to General Clark, the reasons for rhetorical vagueness were multiplied.

Which doesn't excuse the confusion. But Johnstone is not interested in even understanding the complexities and contradictions of the NATO approach to the war or the political leadership's varied responses. She needs the reader to believe that the Kosovo War was a fiendishly executed finale to a well-orchestrated and long-running Western conspiracy to destroy Yugoslavia, and the fact that the Western world obviously edged itself into the war unenthusiastically after four years of mostly avoiding involvement in Bosnia isn't going to stop her. The murkiness around the war must--in her mind--reflect a desperate spin to confuse and mislead the public.

It isn't just American political leaders who get quoted--Johnstone quotes from Newsweek magazine as if all outlets of the American print media are part and parcel of this vast conspiracy. As usual, she finds stories and reporting from the American mass media oversimplifying the issues and call them "NATO propaganda."

Much media coverage from the time was over-the-top. I still cringe when I read or hear knee-jerk "Nazi" or "Hitler" parallels. They are sloppy and generally obscure the particulars of the situation rather than illuminating it. But, again, Johnstone is not interested in helping to bring the issue into focus. She merely wants to throw dirt in the reader's eyes.

Monday, April 23, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [15]


3. THE TRIUMPH OF HATRED [continued]

In light of my previous posts regarding the difficulty of finding any reality-based ground on which reason might find purchase in this section, I plan to just breeze through and make note of some "highlights."


The revisionism embodied in the final paragraph of the preceding section had so much momentum, it carried without pause into the very first sentence of this one:

"The fact that Albanians had invited foreigners to bomb their country was certain to stir violent resentment among Serbs. Some of this resentment found expression in acts of violence against Albanians."

Do tell, Ms. Johnstone. It takes very little study on the matter to learn that the violence committed against Albanians was not only systematic but also committed not by local Serbs lashing out against their treacherous neighbors but by well-armed and--more crucially--well-prepared--Serb paramilitary and police forces. Whatever tenuous connection to reality existed in Johnstone's critique have been all but severed. She is acting as an out-and-out propagandist, lying at will.

It gets worse--she assures the reader that it was NATO that made the already bad relations between Serbs and Albanians go from bad to "hopeless." Not the eight years of martial law, not the years of an ever-spiraling cycle of increasingly violent and savage resistance met by ever-harsher, ever more vindictive collective punishment.

No, it was all NATO's fault:

"The main psychological effect of the war was to endorse Albanian hatred of Serbs, recognize it as justified, and give free rein to subsequent persecution of Serbs as "revenge." "

And so we discover that the victims were really the perpetrators, and that they committed their crimes simply out of "hate." It is not enough for Johnstone to completely rewrite history--she must demonize an entire ethnic group. It takes an enormous amount of chutzpah to write a sentence like that.

And yet she goes on--after claiming that there was no way to know the 'real' reasons refugees were fleeing Kosovo in droves since you would have to either believe "NATO and its Albanian allies" or the Serbian government claims that people had been ordered to leave their homes by the KLA (it never seems to occur to her to ask the refugees themselves--of course, they were all hateful Albanians, anyway), she even describes the Serb forces fighting the KLA as being "determined to root out the traitors who were helping guide the NATO air strikes." Johnstone is, of course, betting on her reader being ill-informed since the NATO air strikes were originally very limited in scope. NATO didn't widen the target field until Serb forces demonstrated that they weren't going to stop forcing Albanians to leave.

Johnstone downplays the reality of ethnic cleansing with a callousness that is stunning. She assures the reader that Kosovo is a small republic which "one can drive across it in about two hours"; she mentions nothing about the confiscation and destruction of Albanian IDs, passports, and other documentation; and she even provides a military justification for the practice of ethnic cleansing by way of explaining why the fighting was so intense near the Albanian border:

"Serb forces had strategic reasons to clear the area of Albanians who could assist infiltration of arms and fighters from Albania."

The woman is a moral vacuum; the fate of hundreds of thousands of frightened civilians driven from their homes by violence and terror and stripped of the documentation to prove who they were and where they lived--all this is portrayed as nothing more than a temporary relocation in order to avoid widespread skirmishing. The fact that there were Albanian villagers to welcome NATO troops when they arrived somehow, in her warped view, validates her thesis.

More next time...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [14]



This is one of the longer sections of the entire book--over nine pages--apparently because Johnstone needs to further illustrate what a hate-filled, bloodthirsty savages Albanians are, and to thoroughly document NATO guilt in unleashing such monsters of any civilizing constraints.

The tone of this section was established at the end of the previous section ("The Rambouillet Farce"):

"The result was predictable and certain: streams of refugees, material devastation, innocent people killed, wounded and bereaved, homes and livelihoods lost. A less visible but equally disastrous consequence of this US-NATO decision to "solve" the Kosovo problem by war was an unprecedented wave of bitter hatred. In the name of "human rights" and "humanitarianism", hatred triumphed in Kosovo."

Where to start? This "result" was inevitable? The bloodshed in Kosovo was the fault of NATO for setting off a chain reaction of unavoidable bloodshed and revenge? Are we to address matters of geopolitical crises with crude, broad mass psychology?

The difficulty in finding any spot grounded in fact has become almost too much by this point--there is almost no point in addressing Johnstone's argument here because she is so far adrift from reality. The facts are plain, and well-documented--the campaign of ethnic cleansing that Serb military and police forces unleashed after the NATO bombing was systematic and well-coordinated; the logistical planning involved in that gruesome endeavor was immense. The idea that there was anything spontaneous about that shock campaign of ethnic cleansing is simply absurd. But by claiming that this was, indeed, the case, Johnstone also reveals an interesting premise underlying her arguments--that the peoples of the Balkans are somehow not responsible for their actions, good or bad. The Albanian resistance was, she assures the reader, nothing but an expression of the ingrained violence and hatred embedded in the Albanian soul, unleashed by Western sponsors. And the carefully orchestrated violence of Serbian paramilitary forces acting in a coordinated fashion in hundreds of villages across Kosovo? Simply a natural, uncontrolled response to NATO meddling.

And so sophisticated Diana Johnstone, who constantly scolds ignorant Westerners for their naive failure to grasp the complexities and subtleties of Balkan peoples essentially treats the various ethnic groups as unthinking, unreflective herds who respond en masse to outside stimuli. I've said it before and I'll say it again--those hardline Serb nationalists who have embraced Johnstone as an ally would do well to reconsider. Their sympathetic Western ally has some curious ideas about them.


Enough digression. It is enough to to have read the final paragraph of the previous section (quoted above) in order to set the stage for Part 3, "The Triumph of Hatred." We will begin quickly summarizing and considering that lengthy piece of spiteful revisionism beginning in the next post.

Friday, April 20, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [13]



The premise of Johnstone's argument is unspoken and apparantly unquestioned--Kosovo was, by all rights, a part of Serbia regardless of demographics, political realities, or even history (unless history is focused solely on early-medieval Serbia). Her objections (which, as always, mirror those of hard-line Serbian nationalists) to the terms of the Rambouillet agreement boil down to this--Kosovo would be free to mostly manage its own affairs even while nominally remaining a part of Serbia, which would have allowed Kosovo to have a vote in Republic (Serbia) and Federation (the "rump Yugoslavia" still existed then) affairs. That this situation was a reaction to the situation on the ground, and recent events, is something she cannot acknowledge, so the reader is left chewing over her resentment at this unfair state without any elaboration on how the international community justified the situation, even to themselves. But then, you don't have to explain all that when you're convinced it's all part of a vast anti-Serb conspiracy.

Her assertion that Serbia would have signed the agreement were it not for the stipulations giving NATO military forces free rein across the republic also hopes to tap into the same vein of credulous outrage.

All this twisting to fit the facts to the master narrative really pays off for Johnstone now--she can easily find quotes to support her assertion that Rambouillet was all about getting NATO into Kosovo because--for very different reasons than she claims--it was. The West had no faith in Milosevic anymore, and if Bosnia had taught the Clinton Administration anything it was that the UN was not the right tool for dealing with him.

You might think that Johnstone would be satisfied with this--for a brief moment, her fantastic storyline has dovetailed with reality; naturally she takes it further. Not merely content to score a point by dryly noting that KLA agreement to the Rambouillet agreement was a necessary precondition for NATO intervention if the highly probable Serbian rejection came about, Johnstone must pretend that this war was the desired outcome. All evidence to the contrary--the US delayed involvement in Bosnia for over three years, even as public outcry grew--means nothing. In her mind, this isn't merely a telling example of the sometimes ugly reality of international diplomacy, but rather is an important clue in unearthing a conspriacy.

And now she takes it even further; at the end of this section, we enter the realm of societal psycho-babble as she proclaims that NATO unleashed "an unprecedented wave of bitter hatred." Stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [12]



One of the central tenets of Balkan Revisionism in Kosovo is that the Rambouillet talks were merely a pretext for a NATO invasion. The agreement did not give Kosovo full independence, but certainly would have restored the autonomy it had once enjoyed if not more.

Johnstone regards that all as a charade--a mere excuse to start bombing. She counters with this:

"In any normal negotiation, the long proposal presented by the Serbian government calling for extensive local self-government and guaranteed rights for all ethnic groups would at least have been acknowledged as a basis for discussion."

Note that she refers to the Serbian--rather than the Yugoslavian--government. Mostly, however, note that her analysis fails completely to acknowledge the reality on the ground. Considering that she ignores the Belgrade government's recent track record on dealing with non-Serb ethnic groups, and we are back to the problem I wrote about two posts ago--the difficulty of critiquing an argument which is predicated on completely flawed and distorted premises.

NATO and the West had no reason to take those proposals from Belgrade seriously, yet Johnstone presents them as if their sincerity is an established fact. And then she hits the reader with this:

"The "Rambouillet peace agreement," drafted mainly by State Department official Christopher Hil, was a U.S. ultimatum designed to bring NATO into Kosovo, get the Serbs out, and convince the Albanians to sign."

She is being deliberately vague--the agreement certainly sought to bring NATO into Kosovo (years too late, in my opinion), but claiming that it also sought to get "the Serbs out" only makes sense if we're discussing the military and police forces from Serbia proper. She is attempting to blur the distinction between Belgrade's armed presence, and the ethnic Serb civilians who lived in Kosovo. The latter, of course, were not being targeted for ethnic cleansing by NATO, despite her paranoid insinuation.

In the next post, we will consider her version of events in more detail.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [11]



In my review of this section--Johnstone's revisionist history of the Racak Massacre, I was completely remiss in not including this link from Balkan Witness:

Raçak - Mutation of a Massacre

It's a review by Peter Wuttke, translated from German by Mitchell Cohen, of an article by Johnstone entitled "The Raçak Massacre as the Trigger of the War" which she published in 1999. Johnstone worked out the themes and arguments that she regurgitated three years later in "Fools' Crusade". Interestingly, this rather thorough rebuttal was pubished in 1999 as well, yet in the intervening period between the article and the book, Johnstone seems not to have altered her views or have added to the slender "evidence" she relies on. Since 1999, much more information has become available; yet she merely repeats her fanciful claims of conspiracies, planted evidence, espionage by unwitting OSCE obeservers, and so forth.

I have no doubt that Diana Johnstone was aware of this article, any more than I doubt that she is unaware of the growing body of evidence refuting or undermining every point of her argument. She not only remains loyal to her clearly biased and flawed point of view, she does not even engage contrary evidence or arguments. Like any conspiracy theorist, she lives in a closed world where only decontextualized fragments of information which conform to the accepted narrative are allowed to pass through the mental filter.

Please take the time to read this very excellent article, which does a much more thorough job of first documenting, and then refuting, Johnstone's distortion of the factual record.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [10]



Johnstone spends three pages claiming that the Racak "massacre" (the quote marks are hers) was a phony pretext for NATO intervention. In her words:

"Police the world over tend to be particularly angry when their colleagues are murdered. One my reasonably assume that Serbian police, cornering a group of men they assumed had done the killing, did not go out of their way to give them a chance to surrender but gunned them down mercilessly. If so, it might be called a "massacre." But the pertinent question is: was it or was it not a cold-blodded "massacre of civilians", killed only because of their ethnic identity, as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing? That, after all, was the interpretation used to justify NATO bombing."

Think that's over the top? Here's more, from the final paragraph:

"The material evidence my be compatible with a pitiless assault by angry Serb police on men they considered to be--rightly or wrongly--"terrorists" who had murdered their colleagues. Cases of such police "overkill" occur in many countries, including, notably, the United States."

Remember, we are talking about the massacre of 45 civilians, including three children. Bodies spread over a sizable area. And this, I add, is her defense of the massacre.

Like any conspiracy theorist, Johnstone does a masterful job of selectively choosing evidence which might support her altered version of events. She makes much of Finnish forensic scientist Helena Ranta's reserved and cautious approach, hinting that she knew the reports were weak and did not make the case that NATO wanted. Here is a link to an interview with Ranta (from 2001--prior to the publication of Fools' Crusade):

Ranta has since gone on to testify at Milosevic's trial at The Hague, where her testimony helped refute his charge that the Racak massacre was actually a legitimate military operation against KLA troops.

Johnstone is far from the only Balkan revisionist to jump on the Racak Massacre Denier bandwagon. The cautious, inclusive tone of the original Finnish report was an attempt to remain neutral and draw no conclusions about possible scenarios; Johnstone and others falsely portray this approach as somehow validating Serb propaganda (bolstered by reports in the French media, unfortunately). Johnstone claims that the French newpapers Le Figaro and Le Monde had raised "disturbing questions, which have never been answered." That, of course, is nonsense. Some relevant material can be found on this page from the Balkan Witness website:

There is more to this section--the accusation that this KLA-fabricated massacre and the biased Western response were primarily responsible for the Rambouillet talks is predictable (and somewhat true, as far as that goes--outrage over Racak did play an important role in driving events), but this section is mainly Johnstone in full conspiracy-theorist mode. She baldly states that:

"There was no "execution at close range" in Racak. Almost all the victims were killed by multiple shots, fired from different directions and at a distance. Only one victim showed signs of possibly having been shot at close range."

Statements like these simply don't hold up to the well-documented available evidence, or to the testimony of Ms. Ranta, whom Johnstone bizarrely seems to believe was less than convinced of the truthfulness of the reports she helped create and the summary she helped draft. People who cannot be bothered to acknowledge facts which are inconvenient are going to believe what they want to believe. Diana Johnstone is a "true believer," and she is only dangerous if other people choose to make the same, hateful and nihilistic leap of faith.

Friday, April 13, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [9]



Some parts of this book are nearly impossible to critique because Johnstone's point of reference is so far astray from what we in the reality-based community call "facts." It is extremely difficult to engage an argument when the premises are deeply flawed. In her discussion of Kosovo, the elephant in the middle of the room Johnstone is pointedly ignoring is the absolutely disproportionate and vindictive nature of the Serbian military and police crackdown in Kosovo. Johnstone wants to keep the attention focused on the KLA, and I don't blame her--as mentioned earlier, I don't have much good to say about them, either. But the reality of the matter is that Belgrade's response to specific acts of violence and terror by the KLA was not proportional or rational or just; rather, it was a coordinated and planned campaign of wholesale violence against entire segments of the Kosovar Albanian civilian population.

And that, of course, is to leave aside the entire issue of whether or not the Albanian community had any legitimate grievances; or, more to the point, any understandable motivations to resort to organized violent action. Since Johnstone is not willing to acknowledge or recognize any of this, eventually her discussion drifts so far afield that it would require nearly constant qualification.

For example, she points out that the KLA was branded as a terrorist organization by a US representative. This is not an unimportant point--I have long believed that the NATO leadership made a fatal error during the Kosovo War by essentially acting as the KLAs air force. But the moral ambiguities of the Western alliance with the only viable Albanian opposition on the ground is merely a smoke screen--Johnstone is trying to turn the attention towards KLA atrocities and away from the widespread--and well-organized--human rights violations committed against Albanian civilians.

The other elephant is this--much of NATO and US actions in Kosovo must be understood in the context of the immediate post-Dayton environment. The US had been burned in Bosnia, and the eventual peace was widely understood to be merely the best worst solution to a problem which had been avoided for years before it became far too much of a political liability to remain unaddressed.

I'm speaking in generalities rather than addressing the specifics of this section not because I can't find anything to address in this three-page excerpt but, rather, because I could write a very lengthy essay on it. Not on the merits of her argument, of course, but in order to illustrate the dishonest and flawed premises which underlie and support the argument she is making. When she claims that:

"The West's treatment of the Kosovo situation was heavily influenced by the myth of a "pattern" in Bosnia that might be repeated in Kosovo."

one hardly knows where to start. We already know what Johnstone thinks about the situation in Bosnia. In order to rebut this one sentence would take far more time and effort than this section merits (one might say the same thing about my extended review of this book, but no matter). And no matter how loathsome the actions of the KLA sometimes were, the underlying premise of this section--that the KLA was the primary threat to peaceful coexistence and stability in Kosovo--is simply absurd. The KLA's main strength, like any lightly armed guerrilla force, was the support of the local population. And in Kosovo, this was due to resentment towards the Belgrade regime and its heavy handed tactics and oppressive policies, not--as Johnstone has implied previously and will again before the end of this chapter--because of some pathology in Albanian culture and society.

Monday, April 09, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [8]



I'm not a fan of the KLA. The methods and tactics utilized were too thuggish and indiscriminate for my tastes; more to the point, the ideology was too nationalistic and tribal. It should be no surprise that Johnstone keeps the focus on the KLA as much as possible. Even though, by this point, she has so thoroughly demonized the Albanians and their culture it hardly seems necessary to throw any more dirt their way.

Her description of KLA tactics, however, fail to distinguish that organization from myriad other resistance movements; the brutal logic of guerrilla/revolutionary warfare is not pretty stuff, but Johnstone does not explain why the tactics of the KLA were any different from, say, Tito's Partisans. Rather than acknowledging that the KLA adopted time-tested tactics which were common to far-left revolutionary movements, Johnstone plays dumb and portrays their activities as novel, audacious acts of terror.

It is no secret that the KLA paid for a significant portion of their war with drug smuggling and worse. Nor is it a secret that the CIA has a long and inglorious history of colluding with criminals of all stripes in order to undermine governments the US Government doesn't like and support those which it does.

None of which addresses the issue of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, human rights for ethnic Albanians in Serbia, or the poisoning of relations between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo by nationalist rhetoric and worse coming from Belgrade. But never you mind--the Albanian cause has been smeared a little more, and we've been reminded for the umpteenth time that the USA is, and always has been, an imperialist force of evil at all places and all times.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [7]



In which we learn that: Albanians had a powerful lobby with an inside track to the Clinton Administration through the "Ethnic Outreach" program, while Serbs did not. Johnstone assures us that:

"Americans of Serbian descent, even if they opposed Tito and revered the memory of executed wartime Chetnik leader Draza Mihailovic, never dreamed of reshaping the Balkans with help from the U.S. superpower."

It's an amazing talent of Johnstone, this ability to know the dreams of Serb-Americans as a collective group. With such amazing powers of deduction, how did she fail to note that this program was set up in 1996, when the US was somewhat preoccupied with Serbia and ethnic Serbs in the West Balkans?

It's a tired tactic, yet she never gives it up--segregate events from their context in time and place so that facts which were contingent on circumstance and surrounding events can be recontextualized as glaring contradictions or sinister realities. Johnstone's pretensions to sophistication are once again exposed, as she reacts to stories of--GASP--ethnic lobbying as if she's discovered the Freemason's pulling the strings of the Federal government in league with the Trilateral Commission. The real world is a complicated place, and those in power often respond to conflicting pressures from a variety of pressure groups. The decisions made by those in power are often driven by a mixture of cynical calculation, response to public pressure, kowtowing to organized interest groups, and sometimes even genuine idealism. That idealism is rarely untainted or pure should be obvious to anyone with even a cursory grasp of how government works. But such a nuanced, balanced understanding ill-serves those who wish to paint every action of the imperialist West in the darkest possible hues.

So when Johnstone points out that the US had plans for a natural gas pipeline across the Balkans through Kosovo, one may rest assured that she truly believes this is a damning and shocking revelation, as is the information that Halliburton is potentially involved. The list of people in and out of government who would participate in, and profit from, such a venture is only surprising if you are truly clueless about such things.

To recap, according to Johnstone, the breakup of Yugoslavia was driven by: nationalist groups (Croats, Muslims, Albanians) who had not achieved the high level of national consciousness, inclusive nation-building institutions, and functioning statehood as the Serbs and therefore resented and hated that misunderstood national group which alone stood firm in defense of the multiethnic/multinational ideal of Yugolavia; in collusion with imperialist Western hyper-capitalists intent on dismantling the sovereignty of small nations in order to achieve the global supremacy of global NGOs in service to the neoliberal, globalist New World Order.

Is that sophisticated and nuanced enough for you?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [6]



This section is eight pages long, yet contains very little substance. Perhaps that it is due to the subject matter, which is a difficult one for Johnstone--the nonviolent resistance movement among Kosovar Albanians in the 1990s, under the leadership of Ibrahim Rugova. To her credit, Johnstone acknowledges the Albanian tactic of nonviolent resistance at the beginning of this section, even though she feels obligated to mention the large number of blood feuds thus canceled or at least suspended as a result (we mustn't allow ourselves to forget the essentially primitive and violent nature of Albanian society, after all). She even describes this accomplishment as "impressive." And then she spend the following seven pages doing her best to undermine any positive implications of this accomplishment.

The gist of her criticism is that the Albanian resistance movement was fundamentally different from other, more celebrated resistance movements in that the Albanians weren't fighting for their rights within the system, but were secessionist in nature. This is true, as far as that goes--they did set up alternate institutions, and there is little doubt that independence (or union with Albania proper) was the goal of many, probably the majority. Johnstone could have compared the Kosovar Albanians to the Kurds of northern Iraq in that case; I do not believe the parallel could have escaped her. As it is, she does not mention that possible parallel.

We're then treated to a litany of examples of how insufficient and inferior the health and educational institutions that the Albanians set up were, especially compared to the existing Serbian institutions already in place. I believe I've already noted this, but it bears repeating--Johnstone is echoing the rationale of colonialism in this chapter with her repeated condemnations of allegedly insufficient and faulty Albanian institutions. The patronizing tone of these sections, which both implicitly and explicitly suggest that Albanians are culturally and even tempermentally ill-suited for self-government, suggest that the Kosovo was, by all rights, a "colony" of Serbia and that Albanians would have been well-advised to accpe the civilizing influence of their masters. In a book which purports to assail neo-imperialism, this is an odd approach, to say the least.

At this point, she blithely suggest that Serbs were looking for a way out of Kosovo, and that partition was suggested as a way to let the Albanians go! The brazen disregard for context is glaring here--to prove her claim, she quotes Serbian novelist and arch-nationalist Dobrica Cosic. This is his ONLY appearance in the book; nothing has been mentioned of his role in the rise of Serb nationalism in the 1980s or of his intellectual contributions to the ethnic cleansing project of the 1990s. He is presented as a concerned intellectual, observing the problem from afar and from despair, hoping only to bring peace to a troubled region and and end to endemic ethnic conflict between two peoples. The hypocrisy of this approach is staggering--considering how she completely ignored Cosic up to this point, the reader might suppose she simply chose to sweep him and his role in events under the rug.

Yet, this is not all that surprising at all--Johnstone treats reality as a carefully scripted play or movie, so the characters in the Yugoslav drama serve as nothing but props to be brought on when their presence is useful, and carted offstage when they no longer serve the desired narrative.

She concludes by noting the growing importance of NGOs and Western observers and organizers in Kosovo. It is not clear whether Johnstone believes that crafty, scheming Albanians played these naive dupes like fools, or that these organizations served as advance troops in the Western imperialist invasion. At the beginning of this chapter, Johnstone claimed that the peculiar circumstances of Albanian nationalism made their culture a convenient and useful beachhead for imperialist powers seeking a beachhead into the Western Balkans. So I suppose we are to assume a master conspiracy, with the Kosovar Albanian leadership playing to the sympathies of their Western benefactors in order to jockey for more power and autonomy.

Johnstone wraps all this in a cloying concern for the Serb minority in Kosovo, which might be believable if she weren't so determined to avoid placing any iota of blame for the troubles in Kosovo on the leadership in Belgrade. I would suspect that Kosovar Serbs know, deep down, that they were betrayed and let down by Serbia's government. And while I can understand why a scared Serb in Pristina or Pec or elsewhere in Kosovo might reflexively blame all ethnic Albanians for his or her plight then and now, there's no excuse for Johnstone--safe in the civilized, secular West she criticizes so glibly--to give in to similarly knee-jerk, bigoted generalizations.

Her concern, at any rate, is not with the fate of Kosovo per se. The spread and growth of Western NGO's gave the "Great Powers" the toehold they needed, as well as the proxies on the ground to give the purportedly one-sided reports of the situation that NATO countries would need to justify military action against Serbia.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [5]



Four more pages of black-is-white recent history. Not worth my time to summarize or yours to read. In brief:

The problems in Kosovo were all about constitutional changes, and shifting Western attitudes towards them before and after the fall of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union. Kosovar Albanians were hard-line Marxist-Leninists and nationalists, while Serb forces (Johnstone conveniently blurs the distinction between Serb and Yugoslav authorities throughout this section) represented modernizing Socialism and reform.

Milosevic's repression of the Albanians wasn't any harsher than earlier Titoist measures, but the world had changed and the West no longer needed to tolerate socialism in Yugoslavia (this isn't an entirely meritless point, but Johnstone, Parenti, and others make far too much of it).

To conclude, Johnstone claims that the West objected to Serb measures in Kosovo because they didn't understand the constitutional issues driving events there; she claims that concern about "human right" (the parenthesis are hers) was merely a clumsy effort to fit events into a paradigm that Westerners could understand and care about.

That's about it. As you can see, my patience with this book has nearly run out--but also, there's precious little to discuss here. She skips from 1990 to 1997 in the space of a single sentence, as if the wars in Bosnia (and Belgrade's involvement in it) never happened. She tries to draw a picture of a reasonable, moderate Serbia trying to deal with difficult internal affairs when, out of the blue, the imperialist West and its NGO proxies falsely portrayed events as a way to turn the Western publics against "the Serbs" and in favor of intervention.

Monday, April 02, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [4]



Johnstone treats us to a little sociology by way of an introduction; here we are informed that Albanian society--being traditional in nature--is prone to ideals of vengeance. She quotes sources calling Albanians as having a "culture of hatred" and a "culture of spite." The focus on blood feuds and tribal concepts of honor underlines this introductory paragraph.



Four pages in which Johnstone argues that the infamous memorandum of the Serbian Academy has been completely misconstrued by anti-Serb Croats and Albanians. It wasn't, she assures us, any sort of manifesto, certainly not one advocating ethnic cleansing. An argument that she bolsters by:

1) claiming that the authors were sincerely, and without guile, merely addressing the underlying weaknesses of post-Tito Yugoslavia; and
2) ignoring the context in which the memorandum was written.

The entire section consists of little else; one is either willing to suspend disbelief and believe her, or one is not. I don't feel compelled to give her interpretation the benefit of the doubt. At any rate, we already know who she finds blameless. What is of interest in this chapter is the venom she directs at ethnic Albanians; we will get there soon enough.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Five [3]



A maddening section, in that there is the germ of a reasonable analysis here. If only Johnstone weren't so stubbornly one-sided--searching for evidence to support her predetermined point of view rather than examining the facts and developing her interpretation with an open mind--this section might have contained interesting and useful insights.

Essentially, Johnstone focuses on the low level of education and literacy among Albanians, and the related failure of Albanians to develop a national literature (or even an accepted written form of the language) until the early 20th Century.

There is much to ponder here; in spite of herself, Johnstone has brought up an interesting subject. Albanian nationalism is--even by Balkan standards--a recent, immature phenomena, and the separation of the Albanians of Kosovo from their ethnic brethren in Albania proper from the very dawn of this process was all but certain to affect this process. The cultural and social identity of ethnic Albanians in Yugoslavia was struggling to define itself in modern, nationalistic terms even as they were a minority in a nation-building project dominated by two national groups with more established and pronounced national identities.

The decision by Tito to allow Albanian-language instruction by teachers and books from Hoxha's country was, in retrospect, a minefield. And Johnstone's point about the decline of bilingualism (or even trilingualism, as Turkish died out) among Kosovar Serbs and Albanians is a serious one. If only it were being raised by a serious individual.

The picture she draws is of a society rapidly becoming segregated by language, the majority being educated as de facto citizens of another nation. Albanians, according to her, were fed a steady diet of crude nationalist self-pity and martyrdom, deficient in science, math, and other useful skills. The Kosovar Albanians became increasingly resentful of the stagnant economic and social conditions in their province, and they placed the blame on the Slavic majority of Yugoslavia.

This isn't an entirely unconvincing argument. But Johnstone consistently peppers her presentation with implicitly derogatory and condescending asides. The strong suggestion that Albanians would have been better off had they been educated in Serbian--a more established written language with a more extensive literature--smacks of patronizing colonialism. This impression is all but inescapable given that, in the previous section, she defended the Serbian conquest of Kosovo on the grounds that Albanian nationalism was too young and undeveloped, and Kosovar Albanian society lacked the social, cultural, and political infrastructure to successfully manage independence.

Her "analysis," as usual, is facetious. Such a shame, too--she comes close, or at least within sight of, a reasonable, even-handed interpretation of events. She seems to have grasped a larger tragedy at work in Kosovo, where the two main ethnic groups were slowly segregated psychologically as well as physically from each other as a byproduct of the larger forces wrenching the Balkans throughout the 20th Century.

But that won't do, for our Miss Johnstone. As we shall see in the next section.