On the 29th anniversary of the Sebrenica massacre/genocide, we re-publish this important critique of the role of much the international left towards the Bosnian war at the time. First published by Workers Liberty, June 2011:
31 March 2003: Relatives of some of the 8,000 Muslim men and boys slaughtered in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre search rows of coffins next to freshly-dug graves for loved ones
Ratko Mladic, who commanded Serb forces during the Bosnian war of 1992-5, was arrested on 26 May in a Serbian village, and will now face a war-crimes tribunal in The Hague.
In July 1995, two of the areas which the United Nations declared “safe havens” in the midst of a fierce war were overrun by Serb forces under Mladic’s command. In Zepa, some 200 lives were killed, and the bulk of the population of 40,000 fled.
In Srebrenica, over 8,000 civilians were massacred. In classifying the massacre as an act of genocide the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia outlined what happened:
“They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification, and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity.”
Srebrenica was only the most infamous of the atrocities by Serb forces in the Bosnian war. Like the wars conducted by the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosevic in Croatia in 1991-5 and in Kosova in 1999, that war was an imperialist war in the most straightforward sense: a war by a dominant power to gain control over other nations, conducted without regard to the wishes or the lives of the subject peoples.
By now Milosevic’s wars have few defenders. Although many people in Serbia mourned Mladic’s arrest, Serbia’s government is in no danger of being toppled by protest against it handing over Mladic to The Hague. In Britain, even the Morning Star has reported the arrest in a manner suggesting neutrality or approval.
At the time, though — and the scandal should be remembered, and learned from — large chunks of the left betrayed the left’s basic values of consistent democracy and freedom for oppressed nations. Some sided with Mladic and Milosevic explicitly. Others, including the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), gave them backhanded support by way of a form of pro-imperialism posing as “anti-imperialist”. They claimed there was nothing to choose between the forces in conflict within Yugoslavia. The only “imperialist” thing, to be opposed with vigour, was the police actions against Serbia which NATO took to contain the conflict, in 1995 and in 1999. Thus they presented the Serbian state as not imperialistic, but the fighter against imperialism. Read the rest of this entry »
An RAF Tornado GR4 jet at a British military base in Cyprus during the UK’s present campaign against ISIS in Iraq
How should the left respond to the possibility of air strikes against ISIS/Daesh (who cares what they’re called?) in Syria? – asks Comrade Coatesy. And, in particular, he asks, where does the Stop The War Coalition (StWC) stand?
An interesting reply comes from one John R, in a BTL comment:
“Where does the StWC stand?”
I’m assuming this is a rhetorical question, Andrew as the stance of the StWC will be opposition to any Western attack on Isis – no matter the cost to the Kurds and others.
In your article, you put two points of view which, to my mind, are contradictory.
“Another foreign intervention in Syria and Iraq is a bad idea, ethically and in terms of Realpolitik.”
… (and) …
“There is little we can do in this tumult, but we are must use all the resources we can to help our Kurdish sisters and brothers who are fighting for dear life.”
If “we” must use all our resources to help the Kurds, surely we should not rule out the possibility of air strikes?
Here is a report from the Independent (Feb 2015) –
“An important aspect of the Kurdish offensive by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) is that it is receiving air cover with US Central |Command recording 21 airstrikes in two days against Isis ground positions and vehicles. This means that the US is now cooperating militarily with the YPG…
Now for the first time there is evidence that this military cooperation between the Syrian Kurds and the US is continuing in offensive operations. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that Isis has lost 132 fighters killed in this area in Hasaka province since 21 February while only seven YPG fighters have been killed, including one foreigner. The disparity in casualties can only be explained by the extensive use of US airpower.
“This is an important development,” says veteran Syrian Kurdish leader Omar Sheikhmous. “It means that the PYD [the political arm of YPG] has reached an understanding with the US about cooperation.”
I think the crux of the matter should be what do those [who are fighting ISIS/Daesh on the ground], especially the Kurds, say they want and need to fight Isis? If they believe that British air strikes can help to beat back Isis, then good.
Who knows, though? Maybe John Rees and the StWC will come up with the kind of imaginative idea they had last year when they were calling on Hamas, the ANC and Venezuela to “arm the Kurds.” Except this time, perhaps Mr Rees will have a press conference with CAGE and Moazzam Begg to call on Al-Qaeda to help them.
By Paul Canning
An anti-war protest has taken place in the heart of Donetsk. Unsurprisingly it was not reported on Russia Today or by the Stalinists.
There has been increased fighting in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in Eastern Ukraine. This has been most notable in the Ukrainian city of Pisky, a city five kilometers from Donetsk held by Russian forces. The OSCE has criticised the shelling in contravention of the Minsk Agreement which set a demarcation line where heavy weapons were to be withdrawn.
This escalation has provoked unrest inside the self-styled ‘Donetsk Peoples Republic’ where there has been very little public protest since early 2014.
On 15th June 500 residents of the Oktyabrskoe district of Donetsk took part in a stop the war protest. The anti-war protesters demanded that the Russian forces should stop shelling and using civilian buildings as cover. shouting: “Stop the war!”, “Give us back our houses, our homes are broken!”, “Get out of here!”
This was a concern raised on numerous occasions previously including by the independent miners unions as using buildings in this way was increasing civilian casualties when counter-fire was returned. The head of the regime in Donetsk – Zalarchenko came out and met the protesters insisting the fighting would continue.
One protester said: “People were lost when we voted for the rebels, but they screwed us, simply screwed us!”
A video with English translation is available here: Donetsk Residents Stage Rare Anti-War Protest
Russian journalist Pavel Kanygin, working for Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia’s independent and opposition media, filmed the demonstration. A day after the anti-war rally, Kanygin was detained and beaten, and deported back to Russia. There has since been an increased military presence next to the government building where the protest took place.
Of course! I should have guessed! The You-Know-Who’s are behind it all …
Geoff Lee of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign explains it all to you at the Stop The War Coalition website.
Displaying a remarkable non-understanding of international law, Lee writes that the US government “ordered” the Swiss authorities to arrest and extradite six FIFA officials to block the organization from expelling Israel from world football competition.
Never mind corruption, exploitation of foreign workers and stuff like that. It was all about the power of Israel over the US administration. (Well, at least it’s a change from the “Obama is throwing Israel under the bus” meme at the other extreme.)
It turns out there’s a history here, going back to 2011:
Former FIFA vice-president Warner blames Zionism for downfall
Jack Warner — the former president of CONCACAF, the continental confederation under FIFA headquartered in the United States — is among those charged with racketeering and bribery.
By Dale Street
“The fascists are not in Ukraine, they’re meeting here!”, “Nazis licking Putin’s ass, OMG!” and “We don’t need foreign fascists here, we’ve nowhere to put our own!” read protestors’ placards outside the St. Petersburg Holiday Inn on 22 March.
The hotel was hosting the “International Russian Conservative Forum”, organised by the “Russian National Cultural Centre, The People’s Home”, a flag of convenience for members of the Russian “Motherland” party (Russian-nationalist, far-right and pro-Putin).
Organisations which sent official delegations to the conference included Golden Dawn (Greece), Ataka (Bulgaria), the National-Democratic Party of Germany, Forza Nuova (Italy), the Danish People’s Party, the National-Democratic Party(Spain), Millenium (Italy), and the Party of the Swedes.
All of these organisations are either on the far right or overtly fascist.
The French National Front, the Austrian Freedom Party and the Serbian Radical Party were invited to attend but decided not to do so for tactical reasons: participating in a conference with openly neo-Nazi organisations would undermine their attempts to appear “respectable”.
Other attendees included Nick Griffin (ex-BNP, now British Unity Party), Jim Dowson (ex-BNP, then Britain First and Protestant Coalition), Nate Smith(Texas National Movement), and Jared Taylor and Sam Dickson (American white supremacists).
Russian politicians and political activists who attended the event included members of “Motherland”, Putin’s “United Russia”party, the Russian Imperial Movement, the National Liberation Movement (slogans: “Motherland! Freedom!Putin!”), Battle for Donbas, Novorossiya, and the “social and patriotic club” Stalingrad.
Alexander Kofman (“Foreign Minister” of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic) pulled out of attending the conference at the last minute. But the Russian fascist Aleksei Milchakov, leader of the neo-Nazi Rusich brigade which has fought in the Donbas, made a point of turning up: “I’ve come direct from the front line, to make contact with European colleagues, to ensure that in Europe they know the truth about the Donbas, so that Europeans flood into Novorossiya (to fight), not into Ukraine.”
Summing up speakers’ contributions, one journalist wrote: “Overall, three things united the nationalists of the different countries: hatred of the US government, hatred of homosexuals, and hatred of the ‘Kiev junta’.”
All three themes were encapsulated in the contribution from Chris Roman, a Belgian active in the recently founded far-right “Alliance for Peace and Freedom” international federation: “In the West you’ll soon be able to marry a dog or a penguin. From the age of five children are taught how to play with themselves, and that it is normal to be gay.
“I support the Russian army, the Russian rebels. I don’t recognise the Kiev junta, a puppet of Wall Street. I don’t recognise the liberal Russian opposition, a fifth column. Politkovskaya, Nemtsov and Berezovsky are now all in hell.
“Crimea is Russian. Alaska is Russian. Kosovo is Serbian. Russia is our friend, and America our enemy. Glory to Russia! Glory to Novorossiya!”
The Russian government was not directly represented at the conference. But the composition, location and themes of the conference underline a growing alliance between Putin and the European far right.
The conference also exposed, yet again, the spurious nature of the Kremlin’s “anti-fascism” and the “anti-fascist struggle” of its puppet governments in Donetsk and Lugansk.
By Chris Ford (via Facebook):
So Stop the War are off the fence and jumped into bed with the ultra-Stalinist campaign ‘Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine’ –
I note that it is holding a joint protest at the USA Embassy under the ironic slogan of ‘Peace for the Donbas’.
This from a campaign who supported the annexation of Crimea, support the war in Ukraine as ‘anti-imperialist’, refuse to call for a ceasefire, support restoring by arms a Tsarist colonial state of ‘Novorossiya’, branded all of us who supported an appeal from the Ukrainian miners union as ‘a bunch of scabs’, and generally spend all of their time spreading smears lies and intimidation against anyone who engages in sane or rational disagreement with them.
My question to comrades who are anti-Stalinist who are in StW – what now?
Taliban slaughter school children
A mother mourns her son, a student who was killed during the atrocity
Adapted from the South Asia Daily:
The Taliban stormed a military-run school in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 140 people — most of them children (NYT, CNN, BBC). Around 10:00 a.m. local time, six or seven heavily armed Taliban gunmen entered the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, opening fire on some students and taking dozens of others hostage and holding them in the main auditorium; some managed to escape the school compound. As the day wore on, military forces battled with militants still inside the school.
Children who escaped say the militants then went from one classroom to another, shooting indiscriminately.
One boy told reporters he had been with a group of 10 friends who tried to run away and hide. He was the only one to survive.
Others described seeing pupils lying dead in the corridors. One local woman said her friend’s daughter had escaped because her clothing was covered in blood from those around her and she had lain pretending to be dead.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that it was in retaliation for the military’s offensive against militants in the North Waziristan tribal region. The Pakistani military has been carrying out the offensive, known as Operation Zarb-e-Azb, since June.
Khan postpones protests
Imran Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf opposition party [which has often been accused of appeasing the Taliban – JD] announced on Tuesday that he would delay his party’s countrywide protests — scheduled for Dec. 18 — in light of the attack on the school in Peshawar (Dawn). The protests were aimed at shutting down the country in order to pressure the government to investigate allegations of vote rigging 2013’s general elections.
Too many people on the left and liberal-left are willing to excuse Islamist movements like the Pakistani and Afghani Taliban (or even ISIS, though for some reason they have fewer apologists on the “left”), or use spurious “blowback” explanations to “contextualise” their atrocities into a narrative that effectively excuses their outrages by blaming the west and denying the Islamists any autonomy or independent agency.
This latest outrage is far from unique in targeting school children, though it is exceptional in its scale. One hopes that it might give some leftist idiots and Guardian columnists pause for thought, as well as forcing the present government of Pakistan out of its complacency and denial … but don’t hold your breath.
By Eric Lee (cross-posted from the Workers Liberty website)
At the 1 November demonstration in Trafalgar Square in support of besieged Kobane, it struck me that the speakers — and more broadly, the left — were not singing from the same page.
On the one side there were those who were demanding that Britain and NATO do more to help the Kurds fighting against the Islamic fascists of IS. For example, Peter Tatchell led the crowd in chants demanding that David Cameron authorise the dropping of more aid to the Kurds, including weapons.
There were calls for Turkey to be suspended from NATO because it, unlike other NATO countries, was not prepared to help the Kurds.
And more generally most of the speakers especially the Kurdish ones, had not a critical word to say about the USA, the West, NATO or imperialism. Everyone was focussed on the evil that is “Islamic State”.
On the other side, some of the far-left speakers went overboard in denouncing NATO, the USA and the West, going so far as claiming that IS was a creation of NATO and Washington.
This was particularly the case with a spokesman for the “Stop the War Coalition” — an organisation whose presence at the event surprised many of the participants.
The Coalition’s website has almost nothing at all about the war taking place today in Syria and Iraq and indeed the only reference to it is video of George Galloway denouncing the support NATO is giving to the Kurds. Galloway also voted against this support in the Commons.
It seems to me that elements of the British far left find themselves in a bit of a bind.
On the one hand, there’s this extraordinary, inspiring resistance movement in Kobane, which has captured the imagination of many who would normally be the natural constituency for the left. The people on the ground, fighting IS, belong to a movement which was seen, until recently, as part of the broad international left.
Obviously they deserve our support — and yet that seems to mean supporting the US and British air strikes, supporting NATO.
To get around this, the far leftists have decided on the “ISIS is NATO” line, which is an extraordinary position — one is almost at a loss for words to describe it.
For those not understanding how IS could be both under NATO attack and simultaneously a creation of NATO, some of the speakers went so far as to say that IS was using American weapons
The implication was that America gave them weapons.
This is, of course, utter nonsense. The American weapons that have fallen into the hands of IS were taken from the retreating Iraqi army. Taken — not handed over as a gift by the Americans.
One of the anti-NATO, anti-American tirades came from an organisation I’d not previously heard of called the Revolutionary Communist Group. (I’m sure that specialists will know the entire history of this micro-sect, but for me it was new.) And groups like this, which get invited to speak at mass rallies, give only a very small piece of their line because they’d be booed off the stage if people knew what they really believed.
The RCG’s speaker shouted the usual stuff about solidarity with the Kurds, but a quick glance at their website shows that they are in fact enthusiastic supporters of the bloody Assad dictatorship and its army. The same Syrian army that abandoned Kobane — an army that no Kurd wants to have back. But there was no mention of that to the largely Kurdish crowd in Trafalgar Square.
So what are people like this, who support Assad and Saddam, who demonize NATO and the USA, doing at these rallies?
They’re there because they can’t afford not to be there. To have nothing to say when the battle of Kobane rages would be unacceptable; they must somehow show solidarity with the embattled Kurds.
But they oppose the very thing — NATO air support — that has made that battle possible. The tide may be turning in Kobane because of US bombing and air drops.
On the ground, some Kurds have been heard chanting “Long live Obama!” How embarrassing for the anti-Americans on the far left.
These people with their crazy views, denouncing the essential support given by the west to the Kurds, praising Assad and Saddam, have no place at Kurdish solidarity rallies. They are there purely to cover their tracks, to provide themselves with some kind of moral cover as IS continues with its murderous rampage across Syria and Iraq.
We should give them no platform.
Letter published in todays’s Morning Star:
Secular, progressive Kurds in need of left
I salute the heroic struggle of the secular, progressive Kurds of the YPG (People’s Protection Groups) as they battle to defend Kobane from fascist murderers equipped with much heavier and more modern weapons.
The Turks and the Western leaders appear prepared to let the fascists wipe out the Kurdish fighters — people like me and you, people of the left — including the women who save the last bullet for themselves rather than fall into the hands of the fascists.
It seems to me that there is a cynical plan in place. If Kobane falls, there will be crocodile tears about massacres and the drums will start beating for a ground war and the gruesome cycle starting all over again.
There is, of course, an alternative.
The Kurds are once again victims of the same kind of geopolitics which denied them a homeland when the Sykes-Picot agreement was drawn up at the end of the Ottoman empire.
With modern weaponry they could defend their own communities successfully — they certainly have the fighting ability to do so.
But the Turks and the Western powers are scared of their left-wing radicalism and their desire for an independent homeland.
And, sadly, many on the left turn their backs. They can’t bring themselves to support fellow progressives desperate for military aid in fighting fascism, because they see that in some way as “supporting imperialism.”
The Kurds are crying out for support, for Western governments to help them.
They demonstrate with banners saying “Your silence is killing us.” They are right.
This is Guernica, this is Madrid. These are our comrades. But where is the left? Where are the thousands who rightly throng the streets in support of another stateless, oppressed people in Palestine? Where is the Stop The War Coalition? Why the silence? Why, why, WHY?
ATTILA THE STOCKBROKER
JD adds: Very interesting article on the Kurds, intervention and the European left, by Yasin Suma, here