Thursday, August 30, 2007

"To Kill A Nation" by Michael Parenti [29]


This chapter details damage done to Serbia's political and economic infrastructure. There are good questions to be asked about NATO's military tactics during the 1999 war. Even at the time, there were rumors about the environmental impact of NATO's bombing; friends of mine from Bulgaria reported stories of poisoned fish in the Danube and worse.

But Parenti, of course, has no interest in a sober and balanced examination of this very real issue. It's all just more proof of the evil and imperialistic motives of the Vast Western Conspiracy against socialism in the Balkans. Throughout this book, Parenti has been driven by a near-religious faith in this premise; like all true believers, he does not examine reality with a critical eye but rather looks for selective evidence which will confirm his predetermined beliefs.

Parenti assumes his claims of a deliberate capitalist plot to destroy Yugoslavia's socialist economy are self-evident; the facts he marshals to buttress his claim actually are open to varying interpretations, none of which seem to have occured to him.

The fact that various institutions of the Socialist Party and various state-controlled industries were targeted does not necessarily mean a concealed motive to "third-worldize" ("Third-worldization" is a Parenti-ism he applies to this alleged process) Serbia; rather, such tactics more likely indicate that NATO was going after the infrastructure and the assets of Milosevic's party. Attacks on fuel storage facilities and the transportation infrastructure, for another example, represent a very rational--and not at all unusual--attempt to weaken the Serbian military.

It is true that as the bombing went on civilian institutions were increasingly targeted; but considering that NATO clearly hoped to turn the Serbian public against Milosevic, this strategy should not be so mysterious. Again, Parenti's claims of an undeclared war against Serbia's entire socialist economy in service of a "rational class interest" which allegedly sought to destroy rivals to Western-owned corporate interests fails to convince. As is so often true (much to the disappointment of conspiracy theorists everywhere), it is the most straightforward and logical explanation which is most likely to be correct, not the most sinister and convoluted.

I do not mean to minimize the civilian suffering in Serbia both during and after the bombing--not for the first time in this blog or even this review, I want to reiterate that I had many reservations about NATO tactics at the time, reservations which hindsight and further reading have unfortunately justified. But such qualms are in regard to tactics, not the larger issue of NATO involvement and the justifications for that involvement. Parenti's examples are, in many cases, valid concerns. His description of the whole pictures as "less a war than a one-sided slaughter" would be merely laughable had he not spent much of the preceding few chapters downplaying and/or outright denying the scope and intensity of Serb military and police atrocities against ethnic Albanians.

If this chapter was meant to be the smoking gun--the concrete expose of the Western plot to destroy Yugoslav socialism in action--then the only thing Parenti has accomplished is to document just how unsubstantiated and delusional his entire thesis truly is.

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