I’ve just used a Christmas book token to purchase the latest Noam Chomsky. Well, I say “latest” but in fact the modestly entitled ‘How The World Works’ is, in fact, a collection of “intensively edited speeches and interviews” (writes editor Arthur Naiman) from the 1990s and (in some cases) the late 1980s.
Above: the old genocide-denier himself
Both Naiman and David Barsamian, who conducted the interviews that make up most of the book, are clearly uncritical Chomsky fans, almost breathless in their hero-worship. Naiman writes “I think you’ll find Chomsky’s take on things more insightful than anything you hear on the airwaves or read in the papers today. His analyses are so deep and farsighted that they only seem to get more timely — and startling — with age. Read a few pages and see if you don’t agree.”
Not to be outdone, Barsamian writes “Chomsky is an electrifying speaker, and that’s due solely to what he says, not to the unpretentious, straightforward way in which he says it (he consciously avoids rhetorical flourishes). Sharp as a razer in debate but warm and amiable in convesation, he’s both the most moral and most knowledgable person I’ve ever met.
“I hope he lives to be 100. You should too. The world will be an emptier, lonlier and less just place without him.”
Given the period in which most of the speeches and interviews took place, and also some previous criticisms that I’ve made of Chomsky, I first checked the contents and index to see what the book contained about former Yugoslavia and the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo; I was surprised to find just one piece on the subject, an interview that seems to be from the early 1990’s. Even more surprising, in the light of some of what Chomsky has written and said on the subject since, is the anodyne nature of what he has to say. In answer to the question “Would you comment on the events in the former Yugoslavia, which constitute the greatest outburst of violence in Europe in fifty years — tens of thousands killed, hundreds of thousands of refugees. This isn’t some remote place like East Timor we’re talking about — this is Europe –and it’s on the news every night”, Chomsky replies:
In a certain sense, what’s happening is that the British and American right wings are getting what they asked for. Since the 1940s they’ve been quite bitter about the fact that Western support turned to Tito and the partisans, and against Mikailhovich and his Chetniks, and the Croatian anti-Communists, including the Ustasha, who were outright Nazis. The Chetniks were also playing with the Nazis and were trying to overcome the partisans.
The partisan victory imposed a communist dictatorship, but it also federated the country. It suppressed the ethnic violence that had accompanied the hatreds and created the basis of some sort of functioning society in which the parts had their role. We’re now essentially back in the 1940s, but without the partisans.
Serbia is the inheritor of the Chetniks and their ideology. Croatia is the inheritor of the Ustasha and its ideology (less ferocious than the Nazi original, but similar). It’s possible that they’re now carrying out pretty much what they would’ve done if the partisans hadn’t won.
Of course, the leadership of these elements comes from the Communist party, but that’s because every thug in the region went into the ruling apparatus. (Yeltsin, for example, was a Communist party boss.)
It’s interesting that the right wing in the West — at least its more honest elements — defend much of what’s happening. For example, Nora Beloff, a right-wing British commentator on Yugoslavia, wrote a letter to the London Economist condemning those who denounce the Serbs in Bosnia. She’s saying it’s the fault of the Muslims. They’re refusing to accommodate the Serbs, who are just defending themselves.
She’s been a supporter of the Chetniks from way back, so there’s no reason why she shouldn’t continue to support Chetnik violence (which is what this amounts to). Of course there may be another factor. She’s an extremist Zionist, and the fact that the Muslims are involved already makes them guilty.
Some say that, just as the Allies should have bombed the rail lines to Auschwitz to prevent the deaths of many people in concentration camps, so we should now bomb the Serbian gun positions surrounding Sarajevo that have kept that city under siege. Would you advocate the use of force?
First of all, there’s a good deal of debate about how much effect bombing the rail lines to Auschwitz would have had. Putting that aside, it seems to me that a judicious threat and use of force, not by the Western powers but by some international or multinational group, might, at an earlier stage, have suppressed a good deal of the violence and maybe blocked it. I don’t know if it would help now.
If it were possible to stop the bombardment of Sarajevo by threatening to bomb some emplacements (and perhaps even carrying the threat out), I think you could give an argument for it. But that’s a very big if. It’s not only a moral issue — you have to ask about the consequences, and they could be quite complex.
What if a Balkan war were set off? One consequence is that conservative military forces within Russia could move in. They’re already there, in fact, to support their Slavic brothers in Serbia. They might move in en masse. (That’s traditional, incidentally. Go back to Tolstoy’s novels and read about how Russians were going to the south to save their Slavic brothers from attacks. It’s now being reenacted.)
At that point you’re getting fingers on nuclear weapons involved. It’s also entirely possible that an attack on the Serbs, who feel that they’re the aggrieved party, could inspire them to move more aggressively in Kosovo, the Albanian area. That could set off a large-scale war, with Greece and Turkey involved. So it’s not so simple.
Or what if the Bosnian Serbs, with the backing of both the Serbian and maybe even other Slavic regions, started a guerrilla war? Western military “experts” have suggested it could take a hundred thousand troops just to more or less hold the area. Maybe so.
So one has to ask a lot of questions about consequences. Bombing Serbian gun emplacements sounds simple, but you have to ask how many people are going to end up being killed. That’s not so simple.
Zeljko Raznjatovic, known as Arkan, a fugitive wanted for bank robbery in Sweden, was elected to the Serb Parliament in December 1992. His Tigers’ Militia is accused of killing civilians in Bosnia. He’s among ten people listed by the US State Department as a possible war criminal. Arkan dismissed the charges and said, “There are a lot of people in the United States I could list as war criminals.”
That’s quite correct. By the standards of Nuremberg, there are plenty of people who could be listed as war criminals in the West. It doesn’t absolve him in any respect, of course.
Now that is pretty inoffensive and uncontentious stuff, especially when compared with what Chomsky was writing and saying just a few years later. Take this commentary on Milošević and the Srebrenica genocide, published in Chomsky’s 2006 book ‘Failed States’:
Let us return to the Yugoslavia Tribunal, where Milošević was charged with genocide. The indictment was restricted to crimes in Kosovo. It kept almost entirely to crimes subsequent to the NATO bombing, which, as anticipated by the NATO command and the Clinton administration, elicited serious atrocities in reaction. Presumably because the Kosovo charges were so ambigious, Bosnia was later added, specifically the charge of genocide at Srebrenica. That too raises a few questions, if only because after these events, Milošević was accepted by the United States and its allies as a partner for diplomatic settlement. A further problem is that the most detailed enquiry into the Srebrenica massacre, by the Dutch government * concluded that Milošević had no connection to it, and that he “was very upset when he heard about the massacres,” the Dutch scholar who headed the team of intelligence specialists reported. The study describes the “incredulity” in the Belgrade government, including Milošević, when they learned of the executions.
Suppose we adopt prevailing Western opinion that such unwelcome facts are irrelevant. Even so, the prosecution has had considerable difficulty in establishing the charge of genocide. Suppose, however, that someone were to unearth a document in which Milošević orders the Serbian airforce to reduce Bosnia or Kosovo to rubble, with the words “Anything that flies on anything that moves” [Nixon’s instructions to Kissinger to order bombing in Cambodia – JD]. The prosecutors would be overjoyed, the trial would be over, and Milošević would be sent off to many successive life sentences for the crime of genocide — a death sentence, if the tribunal followed US conventions. But as always, the principled exemption from moral truism prevails.
* Chomsky conveniently ignores the July 1999 findings of the International Criminal Tribunal which attributed the atrocities at Sebrenica to a “direct chain of military command” from Belgrade and, specifically, Milošević. He also ignores the fact that one of the two Serb generals who ordered the killings, Radislav Krstic (the other being Ratko Mladic), was promoted to general within a few days of the atrocity.
George Monbiot on the genocide denial of his former “hero” Chomsky (and others on the “left”), here
“[T]he movement to which I thought I belonged has closed ranks: against attempts to challenge this revisionism, against the facts, in effect against the victims of these genocides. My attempts to pursue this question number among the most dispiriting experiences of my working life.”
In today’s Graun, George Monbiot notes that recent attempts to deny or downplay genocide (especially the massacre of Bosniaks at Srebrenica and of Tutsis by Hutu militias in Rwnada) have all too often come from the “left.” He’s obviously shocked and upset, especially at the reaction of his hero, Noam Chomsky who (typically) when challenged resorted to his usual trick of avoiding the question and accusing his questioner of being an agent of Washington. Also in Monbiot’s sights: the wretched, deranged Pilger and the antisemitic Counterpunch magazine.
This is an important piece, not because what it states is new (others, including us at Shiraz and indeed, Monbiot himself, have made the same points many times before), but because it marks a partial political coming-of-age for this Chomsky fan (only partial: in the comments below the article Monbiot says he’s still an admirer of the slippery old charlatan), and he’s honest enough to admit how depressed it has made him. It’s also significant that it should appear in the Graun, several of whose leading figures (eg Milne and Steele) regularly sing from the Chomsky hymn-sheet.
Above: slippery old charlatan
If you don’t read anything else today, read this:
The term genocide conjures up attempts to kill an entire people: the German slaughter of the Jews or the Herero; the Turkish slaughter of the Armenians; the near-extermination of the Native Americans. But the identity of the crime does not depend on its scale or success: genocide means “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”.
Though, in 1995, the women and children of Srebrenica were first removed from the killing grounds by Bosnian Serb troops, though the 8,000 men and boys they killed were a small proportion of the Bosnian Muslim population, it meets the definition. So the trial of Ratko Mladic, the troops’ commander, which began last week, matters. Whatever one thinks of the even-handedness of international law, and though it remains true that men who commissioned or caused the killing of greater numbers of people (George Bush and Tony Blair, for instance) have not been brought to justice and are unlikely to be, every prosecution of this kind makes the world a better place.
So attempts to downplay or dismiss this crime matter too – especially when they emerge from the unlikely setting of the internationalist left. I’m using this column to pursue a battle which might be hopeless, and which many of you might regard as obscure. Perhaps I have become obsessed, but it seems to me to be necessary. Tacitly on trial beside Mladic in The Hague is a set of ideas: in my view the left’s most disturbing case of denial and doublethink since the widespread refusal to accept that Stalin had engineered a famine in the Ukraine….
Read the rest here
All Monbiot’s references, and his correspondence with Chomsky, here
Two decades on from the start of the Bosnian war, in which Bosnian Serb forces led by Radovan Karadzic (behind whom stood Slobodan Milosevic, the Serb leader in Belgrade), used mass rape and genocide against Muslims, it’s worth remembering the shameful role of sections of the left – notably the SWP who then ran ‘Stop The War’. What Socialist Organiser (forerunner of the present AWL) wrote in July 1992 follows these harrowing pictures:
|Srebrenica massacre: Budak mass grave, Kamenica 9, where some of 8,372 Srebrenica genocide victims had been dumped after systematic killings in July 1995. Photo exhibit courtesy: The Hague Tribunal (ICTY).|
|Emaciated prisoner in the Serb-run Trnopolje concentration camp near Prijedor, Bosnia, in August of 1992. Thousands of civilians, mostly Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslms), were tortured and killed there. Photographer: Pascal Le Segretain|
|Manjaca concentration camp near Prijedor, north-west Bosnia in August 1992. Thousands of civilians, mostly Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) were tortured and killed there. Photographer: Patrick Robert|
At the heart of the chaos into which Yugoslavia has now dissolved is the predatory expansion of the Serbian state, led by neo-Stalinists whose regime has a great deal of popular support. They utilise people such as the Serbs in the territory claimed by Croatia to serve a drive which is essentially a drive to create the largest possible “Greater Serbia”. It is a primitive form of imperialism, whose real content is summed up in the phrase which expresses their policy for non-Serbs: “ethnic cleansing”.
As we were saying: Socialist Organiser 529, July 1992
The old Yugoslav state broke down because, over the last decade, aggressive Serb chauvinism provoked and alarmed the smaller peoples, Croats and others, of the Yugoslav Federation.
Nationalism and chauvinism inevitably breeds… nationalism and chauvinism. The Croats were pushed and provoked by the Serbs. But when Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia, large numbers of Serbs – substantial majorities in some parts of the territory of historic Croatia – were cut off from other Serbs and trapped as a helpless minority in an alien state.
In the Croatian state set up under German patronage during World War Two, as many as half of the Serbs in Croatia – perhaps 3/4 of a million men, women and children – were massacred by Croat chauvinists, the Ustashe.1
While Serb state leaders such as Slobodan Milosevic whose policies through the ’80s led finally to the destruction of Yugoslavia, were chauvinists, people motivated by the desire to aggrandise Serbia, the Serbs in independent Croatia did not have to be chauvinists to resolve to fight rather than submit to outright Croatian rule. They needed only to remember the not too distant past and look around them at the efforts being made to revive Ustashe banners, uniforms and catchcries in the new Croatia.
Thus while millions in Croatia – to stick to the one example – felt the understandable need for separation, they could not achieve independence without oppressing and threatening others. And not only in Yugoslavia. The whole of the Balkans is a crazy pavement of peoples and fragments of peoples interlocked and overlapping, and standing in the way of each others’ full autonomy.
From this it followed that maintenance of a broad federal structure was the best possible way for the peoples of Yugoslavia to arrange their affairs. But the structures broke down; the central state apparatus became increasingly a tool of Serb domination, serving Serb expansion. Everything dissolved into the bloody chaos of ethnic and national wars which is now raging.
Despite all the crimes of the Croatian chauvinists, the Croats’ right to self-determination became the major issue between Croatia and Serbia; socialists have to uphold that right, championing the minority rights of the Serbs within Croatia but denying to Serbia any right to use those minorities as a pretext for trying to conquer as much of Croatia as they can.
The Serb chauvinists were as aggressive against Kosovo and Slovenia where there were no big problems of an oppressed Serbian minority as against Croatia.
Yugoslavia today may offer a picture of their own future to many other ethnically interlaced groups of people, including the occupants of large parts of the former Soviet Union.
Within this situation there is a growing demand for Western – UN, NATO -intervention to bring an end to the fighting. It is by no means certain that there will be Western military intervention. If there is, it is unlikely to bring peace or create a political framework within which the peoples of the former Yugoslavia can coexist. What military intervention would most likely amount to is action to stop Serbia expanding further, and to “freeze” the current carve-up of Bosnia. Already, anti-Serb sanctions are being mounted.
Is the conflict turning into something like the build-up to another edition of last year’s war against Iraq? The Iraqi occupation of Kuwait quickly became the occasion for a savage Western war against Iraq.
Should socialists “Defend Serbia” from “Imperialist Aggression”? If there is Western military intervention it will be a police action to avert chaos on the borders of the immensely powerful European community: it will be a limited police action. If the cluster of wars now going on are allowed to burn themselves out, they will go on for a long time, many thousands will die, hundreds of thousands and maybe millions will be “ethnically cleansed” into refugee camps, and “Greater Serbia” may become a lot greater than it is now.
As socialists and anti-imperialists, we have no confidence in the Western capitalist powers: we warn against relying on NATO or UN intervention; we advocate working-class independence. But in the name of what alternative would we denounce and condemn, and demand an immediate end, to a limited police action by the big powers?
On the ground that everything that “imperialist” Western European states do is ipso facto “imperialist” and wrong, even if it has desirable results? This is not Marxist or working class politics but absurd “oppositionism”, nihilism.
On the ground that ‘outside’ intervention is always wrong? What meaning can such a ‘principle’ have in face of the bloody ethnic melée which is engulfing the peoples of Yugoslavia? Why has Serbia more ‘right’ in Bosnia than a UN army acceptable to the majority of Bosnians would have? That reasoning is absurd.
On the ground that neo-Stalinist Serbia is a ‘socialist’ or ‘workers” state? It is nothing of the sort, but even if it were, then that would not require of socialists that we back Serbian imperialism, with all its inevitable slaughters and “ethnic cleansings”. Such a position would be a reductio ad absurdum of a decades-old ‘tradition’ of kitsch Trotskyist “defencist” policies for the Stalinist states. It is sheer nonsense, on every level.
Or should we oppose a big power police action because we believe the destruction of Serb power, the prevention of the consolidation of the Greater Serb state is the real goal of Western “imperialist” intervention? For certain, the Western powers will only intervene militarily, with all the accompanying costs, dangers and precedents, to serve their own interests.
There are powers with imperialist ambitions to gain semi-colonies and spheres of influence in Yugoslavia and the whole area round the Black Sea. The UN, the EC, and NATO will not, however, lend their banners to Greek or Turkish ambitions! Germany will not vote for a UN operation which is a cover for neo-colonial action by the US – as the Gulf war against Iraq was, to a large extent – and no other power is strong enough to be able to use the UN and NATO banners as its own. Indeed that is the reason why there has been no military intervention, and may well yet be none: the intervention will not give any big power a colony, or a sphere of influence, that it did not have before. From a capitalist point of view, it will have no advantage beyond stabilising the region for normal business, and they may have great difficulties even doing that.
That is why the governments so eager to send troops and weapons to the aid of “poor little Kuwait” are so cautious about Bosnia.
To be sure, the Western powers would probably be happy to kick Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbian neo-Stalinists into history’s abyss, and that might give some of them an added reason to intervene. But even a big war on Serbia might not do that, as Saddam Hussein could tell them.
Their main interest if they intervene will be to secure peace on the European Community’s borders and ‘stability’ in Europe.
Absurd too is the idea that Western capital – in the first place German capital – needs military occupation to secure its domination in the former Eastern European Stalinist states. It has no such need.
The normal workings of the market – the sheer economic power of the West Europeans – make their domination in the East a certainty in the years to come – unless the working class should take power there. Right now the working class is in no condition to take power. Military intervention will just add to their costs, not facilitate West European capitalist penetration of the former Russian Empire.
If US and West European capital tries to play the international policeman on the EC’s borders, we should counterpose to it something better. What exists in Yugoslavia now is worse. We are against the existing capitalist states, but we do not want to replace them with something worse: chaos is a lot worse.
The best outcome from the Yugoslav chaos would be for the working class in the various conflicting peoples to come together, settle accounts with their own chauvinists and tin-pot imperialists and restore a federation, this time under the control of the workers.
Short of that, socialists should want an end to the bloodshed and chaos. We have no confidence in the big capitalist powers and do not call on them to intervene: but if the West does intervene socialists can not side with Serbia and become “defencists” for Greater Serb imperialism.
Socialists should not declare, explicitly or implicitly, that the best thing is for the Yugoslav conflict to take its course with the strongest coming out at the end on top of the bloody pile.
Those socialists who adopt this posture because they want to be “anti-imperialists” will prove in their own way the basic truth that there is no consistently revolutionary politics without thought, clarity and Marxist theory. It will unfortunately, be a negative proof. This “anti-imperialism” is not anti-imperialism at all but support for the weaker and more primitive imperialism – Serbian imperialism!
1. It was, in fact, probably considerably less than that.
Steve Crawshaw in today’s Independent, here.
George Monbiot had an important article in yesterday’s Graun: important, not so much because of what it said (which is not new), but because of who was saying it and where he was saying it. Monbiot is a respected figure in what can broadly be described as Chomskyite/ Gallowayite/Grauniad (CGG) circles. He’s not a Trot or any kind of Marxist, which (regretably) adds to his credibility in such circles. He was even a supporter of ‘Respect’ for a while, before seeing through Galloway.
So when Monbiot makes a pronouncement, particlarly on a subject close to the collective heart of the CGG crowd, it carries weight. When he challenges one of their shibboleths (as he did a while back over nuclear energy), it gets them thinking in the way that a piece, however well argued, from a source (like us at Shiraz) they don’t like, wouldn’t. Now I’m not for a moment arguing that all the CGG crowd are consistent genocide deniers. Denial of the Rwanadan genocide of up to a million Tutsis by Hutu forces is relatively rare, at least amongst apparently sane people. Not so, though, denial (or semi-denial) of the Bosnian genocide and, in particular, the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica where reliable research suggests over 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered by Serb sorces; denial of this intended genocide (and actual mass-murder) is commonplace on sections of the CGG “left”, in part because of the fact that the Stalinists, the SWP and the anti-war movement at the time deliberately played down the criminality of the Serb leadership and/or tried to shift the blame onto the ‘West.’ But even more important is the fact that Noam Chomsky – a revered figure in CGG circles – has effectively endorsed this revisionism.
So Monbiot’s article taking the big stick to Chomsky and his co-thinkers Edward Herman, David Peterson, John Pilger and the Media Lens crowd, is to be welcomed. The earlier part of the article concentrates on Monbiot’s old betes noir, the Living Marxism/ LM/ Spiked Online axis , but they are much less influential on the left, being widely recognised as a bunch of right ring ‘libertarian’ loons. So it’s the attack on Chomsky and his chums that is most important here, and Monbiot does a first class demolition job:
…But genocide denial is just as embarrassing to the
left as it is to the libertarian right. Last week Edward Herman, an American
professor of finance best known for co-authoring Manufacturing Consent with Noam
Chomsky, published a new book called The Srebrenica
Massacre. It claims that the 8,000 deaths at Srebrenica are “an
unsupportable exaggeration. The true figure may be closer to 800.”
Like Karadzic, the book claims that the market massacres in Sarajevo were
carried out by Bosnian Muslim provocateurs. It maintains that the Serb forces’
reburial of Bosnian corpses is “implausible and lack[s] any evidential support”
(an astonishing statement in view of the ICMP’s findings). It insists that the
witnesses to the killings are “not credible” and suggests that the Bosnian
Muslim soldiers retreated from Srebrenica to ensure that more Bosnians were
killed, in order to provoke US intervention.
These are not the first such claims that Herman has made. Last year, with
David Peterson, he published a book called The Politics of Genocide. Mis-citing
a tribunal judgment, he maintains that the Serb forces “incontestably had not
killed any but ‘Bosnian Muslim men of military age’.” Worse still, he places the
Rwandan genocide in inverted commas throughout the text and maintains that “the
great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million”,
and that the story of 800,000 “largely Tutsi deaths” caused by genocide “appears
to have no basis in any facts”. It’s as straightforward an instance of
revisionism as I’ve ever seen, comparable in this case only to the claims of the
But here’s where it gets really weird. The cover
carries the following endorsement by John Pilger. “In this brilliant exposé of
great power’s lethal industry of lies, Edward Herman and David Peterson defend
the right of us all to a truthful historical memory.” The foreword was written
by Noam Chomsky. He doesn’t mention the specific claims the book makes, but the
fact that he wrote it surely looks like an endorsement of the contents. The
leftwing website Media Lens maintained that Herman and Peterson were “perfectly
entitled” to talk down the numbers killed at Srebrenica. What makes this all the
more remarkable is that Media Lens has
waged a long and fierce campaign against Iraq Body Count for underestimating
the number killed in that country.
Why is this happening? Both the LM network and Herman’s supporters oppose
western intervention in the affairs of other nations. Herman rightly maintains
that far more attention is paid to atrocities committed by US enemies than to
those committed by the US and its allies. But both groups then take the
unwarranted step of belittling the acts of genocide committed by opponents of
the western powers.
The rest of us should stand up for the victims, whoever they are, and
confront those trying to make them disappear.
The complete article, fully referenced, can be read here
The same article, as published by the Graun / CIF is here, and worth looking at if only for some of the hysterical comments that follow.
An even better article: Michael Deibert says Chomsky, Tariq Ali, Arundhati Roy and other revisionists should apologise.
As the war criminal and mass-murderer Mladic finally faces justice, it’s not just Serb nationalists who have supported and excused him: a lot of the so-called “left” have some answering to do, as Stan Crooke explains below. The particular criminals here are the SWP, who a few years later started puffing themselves up as “fighters for Muslims”. At the time they refused to side with the Bosniac and Kosovar Muslims fighting Serb conquest, focusing their sympathies on Serbia as the victim of NATO. They quietly went along with those who anathematised the Bosniac Muslims (mostly secularised) as the catspaws of Islamic-fundamentalist conspiracy. The parallels with the present situation in Libya are obvious…
It’s come to something, hasn’t it, when “communists” ally with fascists…
The “safe haven” of Sarajevo was besieged for 44 months by Serb forces, the longest siege in modern warfare. Serb forces stationed on the surrounding hills used artillery, mortars, tanks, anti-aircraft guns, heavy machine-guns, multiple rocket launchers, rocket-launched aircraft bombs, and sniper rifles against the civilian population.
An average of 300 artillery shells a day hit Sarajevo during the siege. On just one day in 1993 more than 3,500 shells hit the city. Overall, an estimated 10,000 people were killed and another 56,000 wounded during the siege. 35,000 buildings were destroyed, including 10,000 apartment blocks.
Ethnic cleansing and war crimes were also carried out by the forces of the Croatian Republic of Herzeg Bosnia.
In February 1994 an American-brokered deal, the Washington Agreement, brought an end to the fighting between Bosnian and Croatian forces. In September 1995, NATO finally moved against Milosevic and his allies, in a month-long bombing campaign.
Workers’ Liberty commented: “Yes, the Western powers are hypocrites… But to reckon that NATO’s bombardment of Mladic’s siege guns calls for protest meetings, and Milosevic’s atrocities do not, is to condone Serbian imperialism… Sarajevo relieved by a NATO offensive designed as a lever for an imperialist carve-up is bad; Sarajevo still besieged is worse.”
Others on the left rallied to a “Committee for Peace in the Balkans” focused on denouncing NATO. They said NATO action was about “enforcing Western interests” on Serbia. Back in 1991, the SWP had disdainfully said “neither of the nationalisms currently tearing Yugoslavia apart has anything to offer”. It had maintained the same disdain towards the Bosniacs’ struggle against Serbian conquest and ethnic cleansing. It backed the anti-NATO campaign.
In fact, the NATO bombing paved the way for an American-brokered peace deal, the Dayton Agreement. It ended the massacres, and set up Bosnia-Herzegovina as a quasi-independent state, for most purposes a loose confederation between Serb and Croat-Bosniac units, with an external “High Representative” as overlord.
In the course of the war between 100,000 and 176,000 people had been killed. More than 2.2 million had fled their homes. 530,000 of them had managed to reach other European countries, despite the European Union responding to the outbreak of war by imposing a visa regime on Bosnians.
After the end of the fighting Mladic continued to live openly in the Serb-controlled area of Bosnia. In the late 1990s he moved to Belgrade. Only after the overthrown of Milosevic in 2000 did Mladic go more or less underground.
Meanwhile Kosova, an area under tight Serbian control but with a 90% Albanian-Muslim majority in the population, was stewing.
The Kosovar majority organised a virtual parallel society, with underground schools, hospitals, and so on, beside the Serbian-run official institutions.
The big powers opposed Kosovar independence, but pressed Milosevic to ease off. From mid-1998 Milosevic started a drive to force hundreds of thousands of Kosovars to flee the province. The big powers called a conference and tried to push Milosevic into a compromise deal.
Milosevic refused. NATO started bombing Serbian positions, apparently thinking that a short burst of military action would make Milosevic back down. Simultaneously the Serb chauvinists stepped up the slaughter and driving-out of Kosovars. After two and a half months of bombing (March-June 1999) the Serbian army finally withdrew. By then around 850,000 Kosovars had fled.
From 1999 to 2008 Kosova was under UN rule. During that period there were a number of persecutions of the small remaining Serb minority in Kosova. In 2008 Kosova declared independence.
Far from being converted by the war into a crushed semi-colony of some big power, Serbia benefited from its defeat. In October 2000, following rigged elections, Milosevic was ousted by mass protest in the streets, and Serbia’s chauvinist frenzy began to dissipate.
Dispute on the left over the Kosova war was sharper than over Bosnia. Workers’ Liberty said that, while we could not and did not endorse NATO, the main issue was Kosovar self-determination. The SWP and others threw themselves into a “Stop The War Campaign”, later recycled for use over Afghanistan and Iraq and still in existence.
“Stop The War” here meant “stop NATO and let Milosevic have his way”. On Milosevic, their main message was that he was not as bad as painted; and on Kosova, that the reports of massacre were probably exaggerated, that nothing could be done about it anyway, and that the Kosovar revolt was undesirable because it could destabilise the whole region.
Michael Barratt Brown, a veteran socialist economist, was typical of a whole school of thought on the left claiming that the driving force in what he called “The Yugoslav Tragedy” was a conspiracy by Germany in particular, and the West in general, to gain “control over the oil supplies of the Middle East”.
He wrote “Once Croatia’s independence was recognised … war between Serbs and Croats was assured inside Croatia.” In fact the big powers pressed the subject peoples of Yugoslavia not to declare independence. Germany was less convinced about that than other states, but even Germany did not recognise Croatia until six months after the outbreak of war. And why shouldn’t states recognise Croatian independence demanded by over 90% of the people?
Consistently, Brown wrote of the actions of Milosevic and the Serbian government as if they were mere responses to the actions of Bosnian and Croatian nationalists, rather than the expression of an aggressive regional imperialism.
“Nationalists in Serbia followed enthusiastically where Slovenes and Croats had led”, he wrote, but he praised the “federal” army, which had already committed a succession of war crimes by the time Brown wrote his book, as “the one remaining force representing Yugoslavia”, and one which was engaged in “a state-building project.”
In To Kill a Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia, published in 2000, Michael Parenti argued that the West’s hostility to Milosevic was triggered by the Serbian government’s commitment to the defence of the country’s “socialist heritage”:
“After the overthrow of Communism throughout Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia remained the only nation in that region that would not voluntarily discard what remained of its socialism and install an unalloyed free-market system… The US goal has been to transform Yugoslavia into a Third World region, a cluster of weak right-wing principalities.
“As far as the Western free-marketeers were concerned, these enterprises [in Serbia] had to be either privatised or demolished. A massive aerial destruction like the one delivered upon Iraq (in the first Gulf War) might be just the thing needed to put Belgrade more in step with the New World Order.”
In fact, the Serbian government pursued privatisation and pro-market policies of its own volition from the late 1980s, imposing cuts in public services and increasing social inequalities. And its old reformed-Stalinist structure was nothing to cherish.
After the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic in 2001, the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic said:
“Crimes were committed in Yugoslavia, but not by Milosevic. … His real offence was that he tried to keep the 26 nationalities that comprise Yugoslavia free from US and NATO colonisation and occupation.”
The chapter on the Bosnian war in The Liberal Defence of Murder, written by the SWP’s Richard Seymour and published in 2008, has similar arguments: Milosevic’s regime and its war crimes were not as bad as they were made out to be; the Bosnian and Croatian governments were not only at least as bad as that of Milosevic but were also guilty of the same kind of atrocities.
“In the run-up to that atrocity” [the Srebrenica massacre], he claimed, “a wave of terror, including rape, by Bosnian Muslim forces in surrounding areas had killed thousands of Serbs”.
The SWP itself, mostly, did not bother discussing the atrocities one way or another. It simply stated that NATO was “imperialism” and the job was to oppose “imperialism”. In other words, it put its opportunist concern to “catch the wind” of miscellaneous disquiet about or opposition to NATO military action in a region which most people knew little about above any internationalist concern for lives and freedoms in the region… the rest here.
The war criminal and mass-muderer Ratko Mladic has, at long last been arrested. Justice has been delayed, but hopefully will now be done.
“…Countdown begins now for the Noam Chomsky article
daydreaming about Bush being deported to the Hague for trial, and saying
the entire Bosnian conflict is America’s fault – posted by happyroach at 9:25 AM on May 26″
Readers may rest assured that Shiraz will be monitoring the inevitable apologists, revisionists and deniers, with hawk-like vigilance, and keeping you posted.
As the Tory isolationist right and scab Labour “anti-imperialists” make common cause to betray the Libyan rebels, my old comrade Bob Fine reminds us of what “non intervention” has meant over the years. If you missed this piece in last Tuesday’s Graun, you really should read it:
Simon Jenkins writes on the shortcomings of liberal interventionism in Libya (By merely bolstering the weaker side, we are prolonging Libya’s civil war, 1 April). His own response is to oppose the intervention altogether: “I want nothing to do with this… the dispute of eastern Libya with Gaddafi is not my dispute.” More broadly, he casts liberal interventionism as a neo-imperialist project that lacks the courage of its convictions: “It claims to know what is best for the world and glories in bombing to get its way. But when push comes to shove it backs off.”
But he should not forget that “non-interventionism” can itself be a barbaric doctrine, expressive of the indifference of power to human suffering. Each time we look at Picasso’s rendition of Guernica we are reminded that, during the Spanish civil war, “non-intervention” was the pretext under which western democracies refused to help the republic while Franco, aided by Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, terrorised Spain.
Jenkins says “the end of the cold war seemed to release an urge [by western powers] … to use military might to reorder the world in the west’s own image”. But let’s not forget what transpired during the cold war. Non-intervention was formally treated as sacrosanct but brutally violated by the US and USSR in the name of protecting their own “spheres of influence”. Liberal interventionism was born out of resistance to this kind of military intervention, which reminds us more of Goya’s Disasters of War than of anything to do with humanity.
Non-interventionism was no better after the cold war, when the western powers failed to put an end to the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Srebrenica and Sarajevo and refused to take any action that might have prevented the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda.
Read the rest here
The Marty Report has brought joy to Milosevic supporters and friends of neo-fascism throughout the world. The truth is that those of us who opposed Milosevic and supported Kosovan self-determination in 1998-99 never claimed that the KLA were above criticism: in that respect they were just like the vast majority of national liberation movements the world over, that most of the ‘left’ have no difficulty supporting. We have no difficulty with KLA (alleged) war criminals, including Hashim Thaci, being held to account and put on trial. None of that has any bearing upon the incontrovertible fact of Serb genocide, or the democratic right of the Kosovan people to fight for independence.
How Project Censored Joined
The Whitewash of Serb Atrocities
[from New Politics, vol. 9, no. 1 (new series),
whole no. 33, Summer 2002]
whole no. 33, Summer 2002]
FOR 25 YEARS, PROJECT CENSORED has scanned the alternative press for hot stories that the mainstream media fail to cover. Each year it designates 10 top “censored” stories (along with the next 15 runners up), drawing on the work of Sonoma State University students and faculty, community volunteers, and a national panel of media judges to review the stories for relevance and accuracy. For many, these awards have become “Alternative Pulitzers,” commendations for excellence in independent reporting. At its best, the project has provided a vital corrective to bias and complacency in the corporate-dominated media.
I had been on friendly terms for several years with Project Censored’s founder, Carl Jensen, and, more recently, the current director, Peter Phillips. As manager of Sonoma State University’s foundation for a time, I cheered with Jensen when he brought in the first modest checks from that limited circle of progressive foundations and philanthropists willing to fund critical media projects. After watching Jensen run Project Censored out of his hip pocket, I thought it a wonder that he managed, with these small grants and an enthusiastic group of undergraduate students, to turn out an annual book with a commercial publisher since 1993, plus a 20th anniversary collection in 1997.1 As Jensen made plans to retire in 1997, few sympathizers thought the project would survive for long. That Jensen could defy “founder’s syndrome” and turn his baby over to someone else was another small miracle.
When the highly improbable comes to pass, you want to cut it a little slack. And Phillips, his anointed successor, is, like me, a lefty sociologist. When I had disagreements with Project Censored’s selections over the years, I shelved them, rationalizing that the media are not my field and I was busy enough with my own work. So when I surveyed the Censored 2000 volume, I was surprised by my reaction to its treatment of Kosovo. Project Censored had given this single topic an unprecedented five story awards plus a commentary by Michael Parenti, who has served on Project Censored’s national panel of judges for several years. Even more troubling, for two years in a row Project Censored had whitewashed human rights atrocities committed by Serbs in the former Yugoslavia: Censored 1999 denies gruesome crimes at the Omarska camp in Bosnia in 1992 and Censored 2000 denies a massacre of civilians at Racak in Kosovo in 1999.
Reliance on dubious sources and a lack of rigorous research and fact-checking have tarnished the project’s reputation as a media watchdog. On the subject of the former Yugoslavia, Project Censored, I sadly concluded, had departed the terrain of the democratic Left for a netherworld of conspiracy theorists, Marxist-Leninist sects, and apologists for authoritarian regimes.
Pipelines and Lead Mines
ODDLY ENOUGH, Censored 2000‘s top- ranked story on Kosovo is the least substantial: story #6, “NATO Defends Private Economic Interests in the Balkans.” Of the three articles cited, two are about oil from the Caspian Sea region, arguing that a pipeline has to be built through the Balkans because shipping oil across the Black Sea and through the Bosporus would be too environmentally risky. There is legitimate concern over an excessive number of tankers passing the narrow waterway near Istanbul, but the remedy given most serious consideration is a pipeline through Turkey to the Mediterranean. Although a Balkan pipeline route has been the subject of a modest feasibility study, the U.S. government continues to support a pipeline proposed by BP Amoco and Chevron from Baku in Azerbaijan to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean. That puts the pipeline through the Caucasus, nearly a thousand miles east of the Balkans.2
The third article cited in story #6 is by Sara Flounders, “Kosovo: It’s About the Mines,” originally from a July 1998 issue of Workers World, the publication of the Workers World Party (WWP), a Leninist sect formed by the late Sam Marcy in 1959. Marcy had left the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party to give public support to the USSR for crushing the Hungarian revolt of 1956. The WWP went on to support the Kim Il Sung regime in North Korea, the Warsaw Pact suppression of “socialism with a human face” in Czechoslovakia in 1968, and the Chinese crackdown on the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989. Flounders is co-director of the International Action Center, a WWP front group for which one-time U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark serves as figurehead.3
Flounders argues the Serbian-controlled Trepca mining complex in Kosovo is coveted by U.S. and European capitalists for its reserves of lead, zinc, copper, cadmium, gold and silver. Well, the prices of these minerals have been steady or declining for the last ten years. There’s no world shortage of any of them; for most there’s a glut. The fate of global capitalism hardly hangs on a polluted lead mine in Kosovo. Ironically for those who saw Slobodan Milosevic as the last defender of socialism, it was the Milosevic regime which attempted to privatize the Trepca complex and sell it to a Greek company, while it is the Kosovar Albanians who claim it is still state property.4 Censored 2000‘s story #6 amounts to little more than a conspiratorial fantasy.
RECENT REPORTS HAVE UNDERCUT the credibility of Censored 2000‘s story #12: “Evidence Indicates No Pre-war Genocide in Kosovo and Possible U.S./KLA Plot to Create Disinformation.” On January 16, 1999, the bodies of some 45 victims were found at Racak, Kosovo, and documented at the sites where they were found by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Some 23 of the bodies had been found together in a gully, victims of an apparent massacre. U.S. diplomat William Walker led a group of reporters to the site and charged that Serbian police had killed the 45 Kosovars. Serb officials countered that a battle scene had been rearranged by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to look like an atrocity. Walker has an unsavory reputation from his days in El Salvador, but there is no evidence that he had anything to do with staging an atrocity. As a European Union Forensic Expert Team was already conducting investigations in Kosovo, its Finnish Director, Dr. Helena Ranta, was asked by the OSCE to help perform autopsies on 40 of the victims who had been moved to Pristina. Her initial report on the autopsies by the team was completed on March 17, 1999 and noted that there was “no indication of the people being other than unarmed civilians.”5 Some skepticism about the Racak event may have been warranted at this time, but Project Censored should have reserved judgment until the forensic research was completed.
Dr. Ranta’s EU Forensic Expert Team returned to Racak in November 1999 and March 2000 to recover additional evidence at the gully where the 23 bodies were found. Newsweek broke a story in its April 24, 2000 issue that the team had discovered bullets in the gully, confirming that the killing was indeed a massacre as earlier reported.6 Dr. Ranta presented the final report of the team to the EU’s Western Balkans Working Group in Brussels on June 21, 2000. The report was sealed and delivered to the ICTY in the Hague, where it became part of the evidence leading to an indictment of Milosevic. Serb officials and their allies continued attempting to spin the interpretation of the Racak killings as a hoax, arguing that the autopsies produced no definitive evidence of a massacre.
As three colleagues of Dr. Ranta’s in Helsinki prepared to publish an article in the journal Forensic Science International on the Racak victim autopsies, the Berliner Zeitung repeated the claim that the autopsies showed no evidence of a massacre and that this was the final report on the matter. In fact, the FSI article, based only on the early 1999 autopsies, made no judgment about whether a massacre had occurred or not. This story was then repeated in the U.S. by the organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), by Martin Lee in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and others.7
Under pressure in Europe to counter these interpretations, the Council of the EU declassified the Executive Summary of the final report of the EU Forensic Expert Team in Kosovo in February 2001. The summary notes that bullets and bullet fragments had been found in the gully where photographs taken at the time showed the bodies to be positioned, and that DNA evidence on the bullets connected them to the bodies autopsied. In a separate interview, Dr. Ranta estimated the bodies had been shot from a distance of a couple of meters. The evidence confirmed that an atrocity had been committed.8
Project Censored also highlighted three additional stories on Kosovo in Censored 2000: #10, #20, and #22, which variously blame the war over Kosovo on the U.S., NATO, the IMF, the World Bank, and U.S. and German arms dealers. Sources for these stories include two of the most prolific apologists for Serbia: Paris-based writer Diana Johnstone (#10) and University of Ottawa economics professor Michel Chossudovsky (#s 20 and 22). Johnstone, once the respected European correspondent for In These Times, was also a source for the dubious Balkan oil pipeline tale in story #6.
What these three stories and Michael Parenti’s commentary (ch. 6) lack is a balanced historical perspective on the last decade of war in the former Yugoslavia. Two points should be highlighted. First, and most importantly, the unraveling of Tito’s multi-ethnic and politically balanced Yugoslavia was begun by Milosevic when he moved to end the autonomy of Kosovo and Vojvodina provinces in 1989. Kosovo’s Albanians lost their legislature, their Albanian-language schools and employment opportunities, and became second class citizens in a region where they were a 90 percent majority. Milosevic refused for a decade to deal with Ibrahim Rugova, the leader of a popular nonviolent movement to restore rights for Kosovo’s Albanians. These actions were interpreted by the other republics of Yugoslavia as an attempt by Milosevic to establish Serbian domination of the entire country. Although there are villains on all sides of the Yugoslavian wars, Milosevic had the most power within the confederation and the greatest responsibility for its collapse.
Second, NATO intervention in Kosovo followed a brutal war in Bosnia, which reached its nadir in Srebrenica, a UN-protected “safe area,” in July 1995. Some 300 lightly armed Dutch troops in the UN force were pushed aside by heavily armed Bosnian Serb forces, and 7,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslim men and boys were marched off and killed. Some 4,500 bodies were recovered by mid- 2001.9 This event is widely acknowledged to be the largest atrocity to occur in Europe since the end of World War II. Bosnian Serb general Radislav Krstic was tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague, and was convicted of genocide in August 2001 for his responsibility for this slaughter.10
In light of the centrality of the Srebrenica atrocity, it shows breathtaking audacity for Michael Parenti in his Censored 2000 commentary to refer to Srebrenica only to mention killings by Bosnian Muslims in the area in 1992, three years before the infamous massacre. In his comments appearing as chapter 6, “The Media and their Atrocities,” Parenti writes disparagingly about accounts of atrocities in Bosnia: “Hyperbolic labeling takes the place of evidence: ‘genocide,’ ‘mass atrocities,’ ‘systematic rapes,’ and even ‘rape camps’–camps which no one has ever located.” (p. 208) Parenti continues this denial in his recent book, To Kill a Nation.11
To the contrary, solid evidence of systematic rape was presented in the recent trial of Serb army commander Dragoljub Kunarac and two paramilitary leaders who were charged with presiding over the rape, torture, and sexual enslavement of dozens of women during 1992 and 1993 in the southeastern Bosnian town of Foca.12 Sixteen brave Bosnian women had testified against Kunarac and his colleagues. Women’s groups and human rights advocates around the world hailed the guilty verdict by the ICTY, delivered in the Hague on February 22, 2001. For the first time, an international court ruled that the systematic rape of women in wartime must be considered a war crime and a crime against humanity. People on the Left ought to be equally enthusiastic about this precedent.
Interestingly, for someone with such strong views about contemporary Yugoslavia, Parenti has almost nothing to say in his several related articles and books about its principal post-WWII leader, Marshall Tito (Josip Broz). Tito led the first Communist country to break with Stalin in 1948, was a leader of the non-aligned movement, and supported interesting experiments in worker self-management. Perhaps Parenti’s silence on Tito is explained by his greater sympathy for the Soviet Union, as evidenced in the chapter “Stalin’s Fingers” in his Blackshirts & Reds, which attempts to belittle the crimes of Stalin.13
SHOULD I HAVE SEEN THIS COMING? Censored 1999 selected as its #17 censored story, “U.S. Media Provides Biased Coverage of Bosnia.” The primary article concerned the visit by British Independent Television News (ITN) in August 1992 to Bosnian Serb detention camps at Omarska and Trnopolje. The issue revolved around whether a widely-publicized photo of an emaciated Muslim man leaning against a barbed- wire fence presented a misleading picture of the camps. On August 5, 1992, the ITN team of Penny Marshall and Ian Williams, accompanied by reporter Ed Vulliamy of The Guardian, visited and filmed at the Omarska and Trnopolje camps, reporting that grim things were happening to Bosnian Muslims at the hands of the Bosnian Serbs running the camps. A still shot from ITN video of an emaciated Bosnian Muslim man standing behind barbed wire was picked up by numerous media around the world and used to illustrate various news stories on ethnic cleansing and brutality by the Serbs. The emaciated man was Fikret Alic, who had been transferred to Trnopolje from the Keraterm camp, where, according to an interview with Vulliamy, he had been ordered to help dispose of the nearly 200 bodies of men killed in the massacre in Room 3 on July 24, 1992.14
Ormarska, Trnopolje, and Keraterm were three notorious detention centers operated in 1992 by Bosnian Serbs near the municipality of Prijedor. Although Trnopolje had been cited by the ICTY as a place of systematic rape of women, in its description of its #17 story Project Censored commented, “American journalists who repeated unconfirmed stories of Serbian atrocities could count on getting published. On the other hand, there was no market for stories by a journalist who discovered that Serbian ‘rape camps’ did not exist.” (p. 73) The ICTY indictment of the former mayor of Prijedor, Milomir Stakic, includes the following excerpts from descriptions of the camps:
The conditions in the Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje camps were abject and brutal. Bosnian Serb military and police personnel in charge of these facilities, their staff, and other persons who visited the camps, all of whom were subject to the authority and control of the Crisis Staff, killed, sexually assaulted, tortured, and otherwise physically and psychologically abused the detainees in the camps. . . .
At Omarska, prisoners were crowded together with little or no facilities for personal hygiene. They were fed starvation rations once a day and given only a few minutes to go to the canteen area, eat and then leave. The little water they received was often foul. Prisoners had no changes of clothing and no bedding. They received no medical care.
Killings and severe beatings of prisoners were commonplace. The camp guards, who were both police and military personnel, and others who came to the camp and physically abused the prisoners, used all manner of weapons during these beatings, including wooden batons, metal rods and tools, lengths of thick industrial cable, rifle butts and knives. Both female and male prisoners were beaten, raped, sexually assaulted, tortured and humiliated. Hundreds of the detainees, whose identities are known and unknown, did not survive the camp. . . .
Keraterm camp was located at a former ceramics factory in Prijedor. Conditions for prisoners were similar to those in Omarska camp. . . . Many detainees were executed in the camp. On one night in July, 1992, more than 150 military-aged men from the “Brdo” region were executed.
Trnopolje camp was established at the site of a former school and adjacent buildings in Trnopolje village. It was the largest camp and the location to which Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat women, children, and the elderly were taken. The hygiene facilities were grossly inadequate. Minimal rations were provided on a sporadic basis, with female detainees eventually being allowed to leave the camp to forage for food in the surrounding village. The camp served as the staging point for the mass deportation of all those who survived the initial attacks and camp regime. It also served a much more sinister purpose: the sexual assault, rape, and torture of many of the women detained there by camp personnel, who were both police and military personnel, and by other military units from the area who came to the camp for that specific purpose. In many instances, the women and girls were taken from the camp and raped, tortured, or sexually abused at other locations. In addition, many prisoners both male and female were killed, beaten and otherwise physically and psychologically maltreated by the camp personnel and other Serbs and Bosnian Serbs who were allowed into the camp.15
The ICTY trial of Keraterm camp security commander Dusko Sikirica ended with a guilty plea agreement in November 2001, and in March 2001 former Prijedor mayor Milomir Stakic was arrested in Belgrade and transferred to the Hague to stand trial for crimes committed at the three camps under his jurisdiction.
Weaving a Fabric of Deceit
SUPPORTERS OF THE MILOSEVIC REGIME and apologists for the Bosnian Serbs began a long propaganda campaign in the mid-1990s to obscure what really happened at the camps near Prijedor. Unraveling this fabric of deceit takes us along the fringes of the Stalinoid Left, and reveals how Project Censored got caught up in the whitewash. The impetus for the cover-up began with the trial of Dusko Tadic, the first case completed through conviction and sentencing by the ICTY.
Tadic was the former owner of a café in Kozarac, a town near Prijedor, and a member of the reserve traffic police. He was arrested in Munich, Germany, in February 1994 and brought to the Hague to stand trial for numerous heinous crimes, including the beating and torture of several men at the Omarska camp on various dates between June 18 and July 27 of 1992–the last of which took place within 10 days of the visit to Omarska by the ITN crew. The Tadic trial began in May 1996 and lasted through October.
The final witness for Tadic’s defense was German freelance writer Thomas Deichmann, who appeared as a media expert, presenting an argument that witnesses against Tadic could identify him only because numerous news stories on German television had made Tadic’s image well known. After a long string of prosecution witnesses had claimed to have known Tadic for years, Deichmann’s testimony was evidently not persuasive, as the court issued a guilty verdict in May 1997 and a sentence in July 1997. Among the many offenses cited in the sentencing judgment for which Tadic was found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” was a particularly horrendous sexual mutilation of a man at Omarska.16
After the Tadic trial, Deichmann visited Trnopolje in December 1996 and talked with Bosnian Serb officials about the camp, which had been closed down shortly after the ITN visit in August 1992. He wrote an article for the German magazine Novo, which was then translated and published in the British journal Living Marxism in February 1997 under the title “The Picture that Fooled the World,” claiming that the famous ITN photo of Fikret Alic had been staged to falsely portray the facilities as concentration camps and the Serbs as modern-day Nazis. Deichmann pointed out that the ITN news team was shooting from within a barbed-wire enclosure at men who had come to the fence to talk with them.
Living Marxism (later renamed LM) was started in 1988 by members of a British Trotskyist splinter, the Revolutionary Communist Party. In an article titled “Living Marxism–Festering Fascism?” British journalist George Monbiot described LM‘s curious ties to right-wing writers and think tanks.17 Deichmann’s article “The Picture that Fooled the World” is also reprinted in the IAC book NATO in the Balkans, along with chapters by Michel Chossudovsky, Lenora Foerstel, and IAC associates Ramsey Clark, Sara Flounders, and Richard Becker, and Workers World Party founder Sam Marcy.18
ITN filed a libel suit against LM for the charges in the Deichmann article, and in March 2000 a British court found that LM had presented no credible evidence to support its charges that ITN had set out to deceive its viewing public. The court awarded ITN a large financial judgment of £375,000, bankrupting LM. Deichmann’s well-traveled article next appeared in modified form–with a summary of his Bosnia story and general commentary on the impact of media on political leaders–in the magazine Covert Action Quarterly (CAQ), following an unusual set of events.
Terry J. Allen, the respected 9-year editor of CAQ, and her two assistants were fired in May 1998 by CAQ‘s corporate officers Louis Wolf, Ellen Ray, and Bill Schaap. Allen says she was fired because she “refused to be bullied by Wolf, Ray, and Schaap into publishing whacko- conspiracy theories and articles that served their agenda but failed to distinguish between facts and political fairy tales.” Among the “inferior or polemical material” proposed by the publishers was “a story presenting Serbia as the blameless victim of Bosnian aggression.”19 Under editorial direction from the publishers, CAQ then published Deichmann’s modified article as “Misinformation: TV Coverage of a Bosnian Camp” in its Fall 1998 issue, along with an article by Diana Johnstone, “Seeing Yugoslavia Through a Dark Glass.”20
Meanwhile, Project Censored director Peter Phillips was invited to present a paper in Athens, Greece, in May 1998, at a conference which brought together a group of radical journalists, most of whom were anti-NATO and pro-Serb. Alternatively titled “The Media’s Dark Age: a 21st Century Dialogue” or the “International Conference on the Ownership and Control of the Media,” the meeting was co-hosted by the Andreas Papandreou Foundation and Women for Mutual Security (WMS), directed by Margaret Papandreou. The WMS affiliate in the United States is represented by Lenora Foerstel, an International Action Center activist. Other IAC speakers at the conference included Ramsey Clark and Sara Flounders, whose conference papers were published in Censored 1999, along with those of two other participants. Phillips met Deichmann on this trip and apparently accepted the credibility of his story on the Bosnian camps. Project Censored selected the Deichmann and Johnstone stories from the Fall 1998 CAQ for its #17 story for Censored 1999.
After LM was bankrupted by the ITN libel suit, the only place to find Deichmann’s original article, with photos, has been Jared Israel’s website, Emperor’s Clothes.21 Jared Israel also produced a 30-minute video, “Judgment,” on the ITN visit to Omarska and Trnopolje camps, in cooperation with Deichmann and the Milosevic-controlled Serbian television station RTS. A military escort and an RTS video crew accompanied the ITN team, and RTS appears to have spent most of its time filming ITN filming the inhabitants of the camps. “Judgment” describes Omarska as a “detention center for POWs” and Trnopolje as “a refugee camp.” Keep in mind that as a witness in the Tadic trial, Deichmann knew very well what the evidence was about atrocities at Omarska. Aging New Lefties may recall Jared Israel’s earlier notoriety for helping destroy Students for a Democratic Society in 1969 as a member of the Maoist Progressive Labor Party.22
WHAT SHOULD PROJECT CENSORED have known, and when should they have known it? Project Censored had ample opportunity to learn about the horrors at Ormarska, Trnopolje, and Keraterm camps. The Dusko Tadic trial outcome had been posted at the ICTY website since the announcement of the guilty verdict on May 7, 1997 and the sentencing judgment on July 14, 1997. Numerous articles and book reviews covering war crimes in Bosnia appeared in both the mainstream and the alternative press.23 CAQ‘s firing of Terry Allen in May 1998 was well known among the alternative press and should have been taken as a warning signal by Project Censored. All this information was readily available long before Censored 1999 went to press in late 1998 with its credulous acceptance of Deichmann’s sectarian viewpoint.
Once committed to defending Deichmann’s story on the alleged distortion of the Bosnian detention camps’ benign character by the Western media, it was a small step for Project Censored to accept the interpretation of the January 1999 Racak atrocity in Kosovo as a hoax. In June 1999, well before Project Censored’s judges had chosen the top censored stories for that year, Peter Phillips issued an op-ed piece titled “Disinformation and Serbia: U.S. Media Bias,” in which he linked Omarska and Racak as examples of “demonize-the-Serb stories.”24
In my view, Project Censored needs to recover its grasp of a working distinction between facts and ideology, between reporting and propaganda. I hope those associated with the project can review its mission and methodology and get it back on track to becoming a fresh, exciting, and serious source of criticism of the contemporary media scene.25 If Project Censored chooses to oppose intervention in the Balkans, it can find grounds for doing so without falsifying history and denying war crimes.
- Censored 1999, Censored 2000, and Censored 2001 are all published by Seven Stories Press in New York (www.sevenstories.com/); the 20th anniversary volume is titled 20 Years of Censored News (Seven Stories, 1995). Project Censored’s website is at www.projectcensored.org. return
- See “The Busy Bosporus Is Likely to Get Even Busier,” New York Times, January 28, 2001; and “Caspian’s Oil, Chevron’s Sweat: A Saga,” Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2001, p. A14. return
- A. Belden Fields, Trotskyism and Maoism: Theory and Practice in France and the United States (Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 1988), pp. 148-150; on Clark and the International Action Center, see Ian Williams, “Ramsey Clark, the War Criminal’s Best Friend,” Salon, June 21, 1999 (www.salon.com/news/fe ature/1999/06/21/clark/index.html) and John B. Judis, “The Strange Case of Ramsey Clark,” The New Republic, April 22, 1991, pp. 23-29. return
- See the report of the International Crisis Group, “Trepca: Making Sense of the Labyrinth,” at www.intl-crisis- group.org/projects/showreport.cfm?reportid=9. return
- See Dr. Helena Ranta’s report on the autopsies at www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/kosovo/Kosovo-Massacres2.htm. return
- Joshua Hammer, “Unearthing the Truth,” Newsweek, April 24, 2000, p. 49. return
- J. Rainio, K. Lalu, and A. Penttilä, “Independent Forensic Autopsies in an Armed Conflict: Investigation of the Victims from Racak, Kosovo,” Forensic Science International, Vol. 116, Issues 2-3 (February 15, 2001), pp. 171- 185 (available at http://worldnews2.homestead.com/files/racakautopsies.htm; Berliner Zeitung, January 17, 2001, available on the web (in German) at www.Berlin Online.de/aktuelles/berliner_zeitung/politik/.html/1510.htm. For FAIR’s statement on Racak, see “Doubts on a Massacre: Media Ignore Questions About Incident That Sparked Kosovo War” (www.fair.org/press- releases/racak.html); also Martin A. Lee, “More Bloodshed in the Balkans: The Bitter Legacy of NATO’s ‘Humanitarian’ War,” San Francisco Bay Guardian, March 26, 2001 (www.sfbg.com/reality/21.html). return
- The Executive Summary of June 2000 is available, along with related news reports and interviews with Helena Ranta, on the Balkan Witness website (www.glypx.com/BalkanWitness/racak.h tm). return
- “Grave Found in Bosnia With 200 Bodies,” New York Times, July 9, 2001. return
- Marlise Simons, “Tribunal in Hague Finds Bosnia Serb Guilty of Genocide,” New York Times, August 3, 2001, p. A1 (available at www.nytimes.c om/2001/08/03/international/europe/03BOSN.html); the ICTY judgment is available at www.un.org/icty/krstic/Trial C1/judgement/index.htm. return
- Michael Parenti, To Kill a Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia (London and New York: Verso, 2000). return
- Marlise Simons, “Bosnian War Trial Focuses on Sex Crimes,” New York Times, February 18, 2001, p. 4 ; Marlise Simons, “3 Serbs Convicted in Wartime Rapes,” New York Times, February 23, 2001, p. A1. return
- Michael Parenti, Blackshirts and Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1997), ch. 5, pp. 76-86. return
- Vulliamy’s reports on the Bosnian camps and on the ITN/LM libel trial are available on the web at www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/itn/. (Diana Johnstone was also represented in Censored 1999 with an article supporting the #17 story.) return
- The Milomir Stakic indictment of March 13, 1997 is available at www.un.org/icty/indictment/english/kov-ii97031e.htm. See also Marlise Simons, “3 Ex-Guards at Bosnia Camp Are Sentenced by Hague Panel,” New York Times, November 14, 2001, p. A6. return
- See the Tadic judgment at: www.un.org/icty/tadic/trialc2/judgement/tad-tsj970714e.htm. return
- George Monbiot, “Living Marxism–Festering Fascism?” Prospect, November 1998; see also Matthew Price, “Raving Marxism,” Lingua Franca, April 2000. return
- Ramsey Clark et al., NATO in the Balkans: Voices of Opposition (New York: International Action Center, 1998). return
- Amanda Ripley, “Fascist Lefties,” Washington City Paper, May 22-28, 1998; letters between Allen and CAQ‘s publishers are available on the web at www.nettime.org/nett ime.w3archive/199807/msg00031.html. return
- Johnstone’s “Seeing Yugoslavia Through a Dark Glass: Politics, Media, and the Ideology of Globalization” is available online at www.covertaction.org/yugo3.htm. return
- www.emperors-clothes.com/images/bosnia/camp.htm. return
- Check the references to Jared Israel in the index to Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS (New York: Vintage Books, 1974), and Alan Adelson’s pro-PL account, SDS: A Profile (New York: Scribner, 1972). Censored 2001 gave an award (#17) to a story by Chossudovsky and Israel; Chossudovsky’s sympathy for Maoism is apparent in his book Towards Capitalist Restoration? Chinese Socialism After Mao (New York: St. Martin’s, 1986), that concludes with hopes for a second cultural revolution. (p. 221) return
- See, for example, Mark Danner, “America and the Bosnia Genocide,” The New York Review of Books, December 4, 1997, pp. 55-65–a review of books by Roy Gutman, Ed Vulliamy, Omarska camp survivor Rezak Hukanovic, and others (available at www.nybooks.com/nyrev/WWWarchdisplay.cgi?19971204055F); “The Evil at Omarska” — an excerpt on Hukanovic’s experience — in The New Republic, February 12, 1996, pp. 24-29; and Eric Alterman, “Bosnian Camps: A Barbed Tale,” The Nation, August 4, 1997, pp. 18-20–an article about the ITN libel suit against LM which challenged the substance of Deichmann’s article. return
- Peter Phillips, “Disinformation and Serbia: U.S. Media Bias” (reproduced at: www.computec- int.com/bsc/war/archives/disinfo1.htm). return
- For links to further discussion in the alternative media of Project Censored’s purpose and methodology, see Tim Redmond, “The Censored Debate,” on the San Francisco Bay Guardian website, April 19, 2000: www.sfbg.com/censored-debate. return
Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader responsible for the foulest ethnic pogroms in Europe since the Nazis, is going on trial.
Amongst the charges he will face are nine counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for the seige of Sarajevo in 1992-95 and two counts of genocide for the mass murder and deportation of tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in 1992 and at Srebrenica in 1995.
The estimated number of Muslim men killed at Srebrenica range from 7,000 to 10,000. And a further 18,406 Muslims, Serbs and Croats are still listed as missing. It was carried out under Karadzic and Ratko Mladic under a “direct chain of military command” (quote from the 1999 International Criminal Tribunal) from Belgrade and the Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic.
It is predicted that Karadzic will use the same tactics -conducting his own defence, refusing to recognise the court, etc – as his old boss Milosevic deployed to grandstand and delay the trial.
It will be interesting to see whether the “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” school of supposed “left-wingers” rally to the genocidal Karadzic, as they did to Milosevic. The loathsome Neil Clark, in the Morning Star (September 21 2009), for instance, listed 10 “leftist leaders who did not betray“, including “Some, such as Salvadore Allende and Slobodan Milosevic (who) ended up losing their lives on account of not sacrificing their principles…”
Clark is a particularly crass and disgusting power-worshipper who seems to get a kick out of glorifying mass murder and genocide. But the Morning Star is a quite widely-read publication supported by most British trade unions, regardless of their formal politics. Will the Star (with or without the sicko Clark) be defending Karadzic?