Thursday, June 14, 2007

"To Kill A Nation" by Michael Parenti [5]


Parenti makes no bones about it--Western leaders

"contrived to break up the large multi-ethnic federation of Yugoslavia, itself a nation of twenty-eight nationalities--and form fear-ridden mono-ethnic statelets."

Not blunt enough? How about this gem:

"The fact is, there was no civil war, no widespread killings, and no ethnic cleansing until the Western powers began to inject themselves into Yugoslavia's internal affairs, financing the secessionist organizations and creating a politico-economic crisis that ignited the political strife."

Parenti, then, isn't even willing to concede secondary responsibility to the political and cultural leaders within Yugoslavia who dragged their country to the abyss.

So, we are all set to learn the details of the Great Western Conspiracy To Destroy Socialist Yugoslavia; but that will wait until at least the next chapter. Before Parenti is willing to close this chapter out, he first needs to do two things--set up a strawman to knock down; and to obfuscate the specifics of the issue with vague generalities.

The strawman is easy and predictable:

"Are the Serbs really the new Nazis of Europe? For those who need to be reminded, the Nazis waged aggressive war on a dozen or more nations in Europe, systematically exterminating some nine million defenseless civilians, including six million Jews, and causing the deaths of millions of others during their invasions, including twenty-two million Soviet citizens. The charges of mass atrocity and genocide leveled against Belgrade will be treated in the chapters ahead."

The reader could almost write the rest of the book him- or herself; instead of answering specific charges about specific acts of war crime and genocide, Parenti wants us to believe that the issue at hand is whether or not the Belgrade regime were as bad as the Nazis--not only in intent but also, or even primarily, in scale.

The smug tone in the above quote is, I fear, going to become all too familiar as we work our way through this book. Aside from the hint of condescending contempt for anyone foolish enough to believe the dominant paradigm, Parenti's prose betrays a staggering level of arrogance for someone holding such poorly-supported alternate views. His prose is sometimes comical in its rhetorical overreach:

"Truly remarkable are the people throughout the world who remonstrate and demonstrate against these "humanitarian" interventions."

"Truly remarkable"? Possibly, if one accepts Parenti's thesis that the Western mass media is a monolithic organization working in lockstep with its corporate/military-industrial overlords, and feeding the masses a steady diet of misinformation and lies. Of such crude, paranoid simplifications of complex reality are conspiracy theories made. Discounting "establishment" or "elite" or "corporate" information sources clears the field of any inconveniently conflicting facts or accounts.

And we're off...



I don't know what else to call them; but throughout this book Parenti includes various short (a paragraph or two) vignettes or anecdotes which do not belong in the context of the text but which he clearly believes reinforce the gist of his arguments. The purpose of these "box asides" is somewhat impressionistic, as they are out of context and include little if any commentary by Parenti himself other than identifying information.

The title of the aside near the end of Chapter One is entitled "When Terrorism Is Not Terrorism," and consists of a short exchange between State Department official Michael Sheehan and a reporter, who, in response to a statement by Sheehan attempting to clarify when an act of violence is an act of terrorism and when it is a legitimate military action, asks Sheehan if it is terrorism when the US drops a bomb "in barracks or in tents."

Parenti wants the reader to make much of the fact that the transcript of the briefing did not include the laughter that Sheehan's automatic "No" triggered. But, really--the reporter said "barracks," which would imply a strike on a military target. It is true that Sheehan himself brought "barracks" into the discussion when he clarified that the 1982 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Lebanon was an act of terrorism; however, the reporter did not bother to provide any context or qualifiers to this question; it was a blanket statement.

Parenti would like to believe that this is a glimpse of an evil and imperialist mentality; it never occurs to people like Parenti that sometimes military personnel aren't lying, and that some questions get laughed at because they're not very good questions.

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