Monday, June 29, 2009

Bosnia and Herzegovina Days on Capitol Hill

[Press release from the Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina]

The first national gathering of young Bosnian-American professionals who have dedicated their time to advocate for issues important to the Bosnian-American community was held in Washington, D.C. during the Bosnian Days on Capitol Hill (B-H Days) from June 25 to June 26, 2009. The Bosnian-American young professionals represented the Bosnian-American community which consists of approximately 350,000 constituents living across the United States. The goal of the B-H Days on Capitol Hill was to introduce the Washington, D.C. policymaking community to the young Bosnian-American professionals as we continue to advocate and develop joint efforts for improving the security and stability for all in Southeast Europe, with particular emphasis on Bosnia and Heregovina (B-H).

The B-H Days on Capitol Hill comprised of a number of important meetings, briefings, and events. The Bosnian-American professionals over the two-day period attended the "Bosnia and Herzegovina: Parsing the Options" conference at the U.S. Institute of Peace. They visited a number of members of U.S. Congress which included a meeting with the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Bosnia, Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-MO) and Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, Congressman Patrick Murphy, Congressman Mike Quigley, Senator Mark Warner, Senator Claire McCaskill, and Senator Kit Bond. The event included a briefing at the U.S. Helsinki Commission, a meeting with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Stuart Jones and National Security Council Director for Southeast Europe Katherine Helgerson at the U.S. Department of State, a breakfast at the Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina with the Bosnian Ambassador Mitar Kujundzic, a tour and lunch at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, a meeting with the Heinrich Boell Fundation North America, the Advocacy Project, and the Turkish Coalition of America.

The Bosnian-American community during the two days of B-H Days on Capitol Hill expressed their sincere support for the relationship between the United States and B-H, especially when it comes to ensuring stability in Southeast Europe and developing new channels for educational and cultural programs between the two countries. At the meetings the Bosnian-American young professionals emphasized that since 1992, the United States has remained a committed and loyal ally of B-H and all of its citizens, including the Bosnian-American diaspora community in the U.S. In partnership with the international community and the Congressional Caucus on Bosnia,the United States is a leading voice in support of B-H's Euro-Atlantic integration and NATO membership. The young professionals expressed their support for the passage of House Resolution 171 (H.Res.171) introduced by Congressman Howard Berman and expressing the sense of the House of Representatives on the need for constitutional reform in B-H and the importance of sustained U.S. engagement in partnership with the European Union (EU), which re-affirmed the United States' commitment to support B-H in its efforts in reconstruction, peace and post-conflict reconciliation, and democratization as a united and sovereign nation.

In order to effectively promote stability in B-H and Southeast Europe, the Bosnian-American community expressed their concerns about the Dual Citizenship Clause in Article 17 of the B-H Constitution, which threatens the majority of Bosnian-American citizens with the loss of their B-H citizenship. The Bosnian-American community strongly advocated that the clause should be amended so that citizens of B-H descent who have acquired U.S. citizenship do not lose their B-H citizenship.

The young professionals re-affirmed their commitment to promote the cultural and educational exchange programs in order to further consolidate the long-standing friendship between B-H and the United States. The participants stressed that exchange programs are of vital importance, and provide young professionals from B-H with an insight into the world of international affairs through the prestigious graduate programs offered by universities in United States. The participants want to enable B-H students to receive world-class education and equip them with the tools required to bring about a better future for B-H and all of its citizens. At the same time, the community is encouraging American students to visit B-H to obtain a deeper understanding of the political, social, and economical challenges facing the country going forward on its path of democracy and integration into the EU and NATO membership. Through cultural and exchange programs, the Bosnian-American community emphasized its strong supportfor the development of economic exchange as it will enable the two countries to further develop their economy and a strategic partnership of mutual understanding.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Speaking of Editorial Standards--Who's in Charge at ""?

As of today, the website is featuring some pretty dubious articles.

I understand why the implicitly racist editorial The Balkan Mess Redux might have been featured--the author is former US ambassador William Montgomery, so if this article was submitted for publication, I certainly recognize the pressure a small website such as this would accept the piece, no questions asked. However, I suspect that this article was highlighted because Montgomery advocates partition--this website has a subtly but pervasive Islamist bent, and perhaps ethno-religious partition would suit the editors fine.

I hesitate to make such an accusation with any fervor, because I don't have enough context to confidently make such a claim. However, there are some other troubling stories which collectively suggest that I need to monitor this site more carefully if I'm going to continue to link to it.

If nothing else, one should be leery of any website which publishes an overtly LaRouchite article on the front page--or anywhere else on the site, for that matter.

I will refrain from further comment until I've spent more time reviewing this site with a critical eye.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Genocide Denier Allowed to Slander Bosniaks in University of Minnesota-connected Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies

As already noted by Daniel in this post at the always-excellent Srebrenica Genocide Blog, the Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota has made a poor and disturbing choice--to allow a well-documented genocide denier to write at least one page of their website:

"Bosnia and the Holocaust is a very incomplete, disingenuous, and misleading article to be as generous as possible. While the decision to defer on this niche topic to an "expert" like Carl Savich, who possesses the requisite academic credentials, might be understandable, someone in an editorial capacity should have had second thoughts when the web "source" Savich links to were given the most cursory of examinations. Savich links to this article from the "Srpska Mreza" website. Put aside how grossly misleading and dishonest this article is--the writing is atrocious, and the style is far below the level expected of an undergraduate paper.

Someone at the Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies has really dropped the ball on this. There are simply no standards of basic academic honesty or fundamental research to be seen--this is a disgrace to the Center and the to the University of Minnesota.

What is most troubling is that, after reading Daniel's account, I sent a rather detailed email alerting the Center to this problem, and to date have not even received a perfunctory acknowledgment of my concerns. Considering that I informed them they were allowing a genocide denier to use a pro-genocide, far-right website as a source in an article promoting propaganda as history, one would think someone at their end would want to address my concerns. So far, however, nobody there seems to care much.

More on this issue as it develops--or, so far, as it has sadly failed to develop.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Washington's War" by Michael Rose [4]


The rest of this book is nothing more than a polemic against the Iraq War, with a faint whiff of anti-Muslim bigotry which never really comes out from the shadows to show its' true face. That should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Rose's earlier writings on his time in Bosnia; nor should anyone be shocked that he is against vigorous military action against terrorism and the regimes which support it. Because Rose has written more directly about Bosnia, I will not go any further with my review of this book, other than a brief consideration of the Introduction.

This book is almost painful to read, because Rose is determined to find parallels between the American War of Independence and the current Iraq War regardless of how poorly the facts of history and todays' headlines fit his preconceived interpretation. Rose gets a lot of very basic things wrong over and over again, which makes it all the easier to uncover his motives for writing this book.

His assertion that the government of King George III failed to fully exploit divisions within colonial society early in the conflict because he and his advisers were too arrogant might have some limited validity (even if Rose ignores the hierarchical nature of 18th Century society--the paternalism of King George III was a feature, not a bug) but I do not find his comparison to the sectarian divisions in Iraq at all convincing. However, I do give Rose credit for his observation that the Americans failed by recognizing and dealing with three groups (Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds), a decision which forced Iraqis to chose an "ethnic" identity and which empowered sectarian leaders. However, I strongly reject his assertion that the proper response would have been to divide Iraq along multiple tribal, social, ethnic, and religious lines.

Like many Balkan revisionists, Rose seems to be a moral relativist who believes that there are no universal human rights. Furthermore, for all his pretensions to a sophisticated analysis of Iraq social and cultural divisions, he seems to regard the "Muslim world" as uniform and monolithic. He also enjoys attacking strawmen:

"In the same way that George III thought civilized society was only possible under royal protection, today President Bush and Prime Minister Blair believe that civilized society can only properly flourish where conditions of democracy and freedom exist."

This is simply not true--I cannot imagine Tony Blair being daft enough to believe that "civilization" is only a product of Western-style liberal democracy. Nor do I believe that he or Bush have ever declared that Iraq was not a civilized country. It is true that both men professed a belief in the universal worth of democracy and freedom, and that they believed that a more democratic world would ultimately be a more peaceful world; but again, this is different than the words Rose is in effect putting in their mouths.

Here is what Rose claims "Muslims" (he does not differentiate between any of the more than 1 billion Muslims on the planet in this argument) believe is necessary for "civilization":

"They do not believe that Western liberal-style democracy is necessary to their personal fulfilment or to good governance--since these can best be obtained through adherence to their religion, family and tribe, and obedience to their hereditary ruler."

And so on. Rose briefly states that Iraqis would not tolerate a lengthy occupation of their country because "Iraq contains some of the most holy Islamic sites after Mecca and Medina," yet he fails to consider that most people in most countries would chafe at an occupation by a foreign power; he also fails to note that some of those holy Islamic sites have been damaged by terror attacks by other Muslims. Blaming America for Al Qaeda attacks on Shiite holy sites seems more than merely oversimplifying, to be kind.

Rose argues that the American failure to mobilize local support in Iraq (how this would be possible since all Muslims automatically reject our alien Western notions of freedom is not clear) to the British failure to mobilize loyalist militias in the colonies, an assertion that conveniently ignores how pitiful the performance of patriot militias was. Why Rose feels that hypothetical Tory militias would have been more successful when they didn't even have the advantages that patriot militias mostly failed to utilize very successfully is not clear.

And so it goes. This is a dreary book full of bad history and simple-minded, disingenuous analysis. And subsequent events seem to have passed Rose by--Iraq has not descended into full-scale civil war, the Iraqis have largely rejected Islamic extremism, and the state--although fragile--seems to have a future. There is no need to surrender in Iraq, no matter how much Rose seems to want it. Rose's attempts to compare the American Revolution to the thuggish reign of terror imposed on Iraq by a motley collection of sectarian militias and terrorist groups seeking to take advantage of the collapse of a corrupt state and the initial failure of the occupiers to account for that power vacuum are clumsy, informed by suspect motives, and happily seems to be sliding into irrelevance.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

"Washington's War" by Michael Rose [3]


Rose claims that the research for this book was originally for a projected study of the British military failure to defeat the rebellion by the 13 North American colonies in the late 18th Century. He began visiting some of the battlefields where the war was fought just prior to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. However, he states that the focus of his research changed after the United States declared a "War on Terror." In the very first paragraph, he states the central claim of this book; this passage is worth quoting:

"Over the next five years I came to see you great the similarities are between the policies being pursued by America in the present Iraq war and those of Britain in the eighteenth century. Not only do the same political and military imperatives apply, but also George III's inability to recognize what drove the American colonists to rebel against the British Crown is exactly matched by George Bush's lack of understanding of the motivations of Islamic extremist terrorists."

Rose couches his polemic in plenty of seemingly-reasonable language, and takes great pains to appear balanced and nuanced. He may succeed in fooling some readers; however, that unfortunate use of the word "exactly" gives the game away. Rose wants to pretend that the similarities between the two situations are deep, profound, and transcend any superficial differences--which, of course, he quickly goes on to list in an effort to appear generous and even-handed. However, these rather perfunctory disclaimers (we will later learn that George Washington was not a bloodthirsty and thuggish as, I suppose, Muqtada al-Sadr--although it's very important to note that when discussing the Iraqis or "the Muslims" Rose is remarkably vague and generally avoids any specifics whatsoever) are overwhelmed by over-the-top claims finding glib parallels between the Declaration of Independence and the rhetoric "employed by the insurgents in Iraq today." As already noted, Rose does not bother to identify which insurgents or to quote any specific examples of these 'similar arguments.' The fact that Rose is essentially giving Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia the same moral legitimacy as the Founders is something he quite obviously does not wish to state explicitly.

The key point as far as this blog is concerned is this one:

"The failure of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair to understand the limitations of military force in combating terrorism undoubtedly stems from their misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the wars in the Balkans that took place between 1992 and 1999. My own experience as the commander of the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia in 1994 demonstrated to me just how far politicians are prepared to go in their efforts to alter history. Even today, in their speeches, Bush and Blair continually repeat the the message that peace was returned to the Balkans by the use of military force, and that efforts at peacekeeping by the United Nations in the region had been ineffective. In this wholly inaccurate analysis, it was the bombing of the Serbs in September 1995 that brought peace at Dayton and it was the bombing of Yugoslavia that removed Milosevic from power in 1999."

Put aside that this is an oversimplification of the arguments Rose is challenging and focus instead on how brazen these claims of his are. Of course, for Rose to claim that the Bush/Blair interpretation of events is "altered history" requires Rose to offer his own version of events. He does so, and those familiar with his earlier works on Bosnia will not be surprised:

"The decision by the Serbs [not, it should be noted, by "the Bosnian Serb leadership"--a telling use of collectivist language common to Balkan revisionists] to sign up to the Dayton peace accord came about, not through NATO bombing, but because the military balance of forces on the ground had been changed by the halting of the fighting between the Muslims and the Croats the year before. The two previously warring factions had formed a federation and it was that federation's military success in the autumn of 1995, when they captured much of the territory that the Serbs had wished to trade for peace on their terms, which finally forced the Serbs to bring a halt to the fighting."

There is a great deal to consider there. For one thing, while discounting the very real military value of NATO bombing to the combined Bosnian Government/Croat offensive (and ignoring Kosova altogether, where NATO again acted as the de facto airforce to the party we supported), Rose inadvertently contradicts his own thesis--it WAS, after, military force that brought an end to the war in Bosnia. Of course, the real problem is that Rose is and was hostile to the Bosniaks as a people and to their leadership, putting him in the position of being an apologist for the Serb nationalist position even if he is not necessarily--unlike so many other Balkan revisionists--an outright ally. The implication that the Bosnian Serbs were ready to trade land for peace and that it was the stubbornness of the Bosnian/Croat alliance that insisted on the dragging the war out is clear. The fact that Rose cannot even grasp the hypocrisy of that statement lets the reader know that he still doesn't get it.

In other words, Rose has still not learned what he failed to grasp while on the ground in Bosnia. He arrived in 1994 with apparently no sense of context or understanding of recent events, so he was unable to properly gauge events and actions with any sense of judgment or perspective. I trust that any readers have already read the previously-linked review of his book on the war itself. Rose has not, after a decade and a half, seemingly learned a damn thing. His assertion that "Without the UN mission, Dayton would never have happened" might be tragically true, but not for the reasons he imagines. At least some of us in favor of humanitarian intervention would like to believe that without UN cover, the West might have been forced to deal more forcefully with the carnage in Bosnia and in shorter time. Having failed to grasp the actual nature of a war he was involved in while refusing to even understanding that its very presence was a factor in the war, Rose now seeks to apply the faulty "lessons" he gleaned to another conflict, on in which his opposition to Western intervention AND his hostility to Muslims uneasily coexist.