Long post: Anatomy of denial

When a group of writers calling themselves the Srebrenica Research Group released their conclusions in July, I did not comment on it. This is principally because it was a poorly researched polemical piece, prepared by people who were somewhat well-known for essays in political magazines, but none of whom had any recognition, or indeed any record of research, as authorities on the region. This is probably the reason that media have also generally ignored the report, aside from a few treatments in the right-wing press in Serbia and in magazines for which the authors habitually write. For the most part I considered it a fairly misguided effort by perennial critics of US foreign policy to illustrate their critique. While I have absolutely nothing against critiques of US foreign policy, I do not consider it to be an empirical position, and when empirical positions are subordinated to ideological stances then they do not interest me at all.

But now Talos has posted a link and a few quotations from an article by one of the contributors to the report, which recapitulates several of the major points in the longer document. This does not seem to be by way of endorsing the conclusions, but more as a way of beginning a dialogue on issues related to it. He is requesting responses, and I could not resist taking the bait. My response is lengthy, so I am putting it here rather than in his comments section.

Generally the article by Diana Johnstone struck me as fairly incoherent, partly a collection of factual claims made from a certain political position, but more an effort to recontextualize facts and to attribute motivations to a universe of actors. I understand that what she is producing is polemical rather than academic writing, and that this genre is subject to a different set of standards. But there are theses offered here that look familiar from other places, and so it seemed like the best way to approach them was to try to tease them out of the piece. What follows is my reconstruction of the article in the form of fifteen untenable theses presented in it. The theses are presented in a different order in the article; I have rearranged them into a smaller number of general categories. All quotations are from Diana Johnstone's article, unaltered.


✯ Srebrenica happened in the context of a war, and such things are to be expected in wars ("War is a life and death matter, and inevitably leads people to commit acts they would never commit in peacetime").

✯ The VBiH treated the civilian population as hostages ("The Muslim military did not allow civilians to leave, since their presence was what ensured the arrival of humanitarian aid provisions which the military controlled."), which made it predictable that the VRS would murder them, therefore the crime is the responsibility of somebody other than the people who committed it.

✯ Some Muslims were not killed ("But what plan for genocide includes offering safe passage to women and children? And if this was all part of a Serb plot to eliminate Muslims, what about all the Muslims living peacefully in Serbia itself, including thousands of refugees who fled there from Bosnia? Or the Muslims in the neighboring enclave of Zepa, who were unharmed when the Serbs captured that town a few days after capturing Srebrenica?"), therefore the ones who were killed must not have been killed as a part of a plan.


✯ Naser Oric was a criminal ("General Morillon stressed that the Muslim commander in Srebrenica, Naser Oric, 'engaged in attacks during Orthodox holidays and destroyed villages, massacring all the inhabitants. This created a degree of hatred that was quite extraordinary in the region'"), which justified attacks against the civilian population in the area where he operated.

✯ Only parties that have committed genocide have been charged with genocide ("The charge of 'genocide' is what sharply distinguishes the indictment of Serbs from indictments of Croats or Muslims for similar crimes committed during the Yugoslav disintegration wars"), therefore there must not have been a genocide.

✯ There have been crimes committed elsewhere in the world at other times ("from Vietnam to Panama to Iraq", and also "when the Nazi occupation broke up Yugoslavia"), therefore this crime must not be important.


✯ Fewer bodies have been identified than the number of people who are known to have been killed ("less than 3,000 have been exhumed"), therefore anybody who has not been identified must either have been an executed prisoner of war or not be dead at all ("this was, then, a 'massacre', such as occurs in war when fleeing troops are ambushed by superior forces"). Where questions of fact are involved, the only objective strategy is to cite oneself (in the name of "an independent international Srebrenica research group which will soon publish its findings in book form" which is an "unbiased investigation and serious historical analysis") while failing to mention all other sources (with which they would appear to be unfamiliar--in 76 footnotes of this report, the authors cite themselves 36 times).

✯ The principle of command responsibility is unfamiliar to Diana Johnstone ("to establish what it calls 'command responsibility' for Serb crimes rather than individual guilt of actual perpetrators. The aim is not to identify and punish men who violated the Geneva conventions by executing prisoners, but rather to pin the supreme crime on the top Serb leadership," and "Clearly, the purpose of the 'genocide' charge is not to punish the perpetrators but to incriminate the Bosnian Serb, and the Yugoslav Serb, chain of command right up to the top"), therefore it does not exist in law.

✯ Even though none of the events happened, they were ordered and carried out at a lower level of command ("the brutal behavior of enraged soldiers [or paramilitaries, the probable culprits in this case] out of control") than the level of the people indicted.


✯ Memory might be used in the future to mobilise resentment ("The insistence on past atrocities may simply prepare the next wave"), therefore it should not be invoked.

✯ A genocide conviction might be inconvenient for some interested parties ("If Milosevic, as former president of Serbia, can be convicted of genocide, then the Bosnian Muslims hope to win billions of dollars in reparations that will keep Serbia on its knees for the foreseeable future"), therefore it is not justified in law.

✯ It is not certain that punishing one set of perpetrators will prevent another set of perpetrators from doing something else ("when all is said and done, it is an illusion to think that condemning perpetrators of a massacre in Bosnia will ensure that the next civil war somewhere in the world will be carried out in a more chivalrous manner"). Therefore punishment should not be pursued, as long as there is the opportunity to regret the fact that war ever occurs at all.


✯The memory of Srebrenica has been used for rhetorical purposes (here Diana Johnstone uses a rich pallette: the rhetorical purposes she declares include a) "to draw attention away from the U.S.-backed Croatian offensive which drove the Serb population out of the Krajina"; b) "to implicate Bosnian Serb leaders in 'genocide' in order to disqualify them from negotiating the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina"; c) "To use 'Srebrenica' as an effective instrument in the restructuring of former Yugoslavia, notably by replacing recalcitrant Serb leaders by more pliable politicians"; d) to contribute "to a spirit of 'conflict of civilizations'. It has helped recruit volunteers for Islamic terrorist groups"; and e) "to justify what is perhaps the worst of all the genocidal conditions: war." If I have missed any, or if Diana Johnstone has thought of any more in the meantime, the list can probably be expanded), therefore it must be a false memory.

✯ Diana Johnstone has an ideological definition of genocide ("In the world today, few people, including Bosnian Muslims, are threatened by 'genocide' in the sense of a deliberate Hitler-style project to exterminate a population-which is how most people understand the term. But millions of people are threatened, not by genocidal maniacs, but by genocidal conditions of life: poverty, disease, inadequate water, global climate change. The Srebrenica mourning cult offers nothing positive in regard to these genocidal conditions. Worse, it is instrumentalized openly to justify what is perhaps the worst of all the genocidal conditions: war.") This makes any legal definition unnecessary, and preempts any existing one.

✯ The background against which events occur ("a radically unjust socio-economic world order euphemistically called 'globalization'") preempts any concern about actual events that occur, unless these events are consistent with an a priori premise about which events matter.

I would not have taken the trouble to respond if Talos had not asked for responses, especially since in many ways the quality of Diana Johnstone's analysis speaks for itself. Maybe there is some point in doing it, since she offers a concentrated version of several arguments that crop up from time to time. It never ceases to amaze me that there is a group of people who describe themselves as progressives (and who find some part of the left audience willing to accept that description) while in practice so much of their rhetorical effort goes into creating apologies for violent criminals of the extreme right. The implicit logical connection to be made is that anybody who is concerned about US foreign policy or globalisation is required to support any regime that is declaratively against these things. In the same breath, Diana Johnstone tries to preemptively state her worry that she might be "condemned as an apologist for frightful crimes." She might be, yes.


Anonymous said...

Holy crap.

Eric, that was fantastic. Much better than my response(s). I think I'm going to bookmark this.

Mind, she's wrong on the facts, too.

Doug M.

talos said...

Ah, yes, this was the sort of response I was hoping for, thanks for your time Eric.

Anonymous said...


talos said...

The implicit logical connection to be made is that anybody who is concerned about US foreign policy or globalisation is required to support any regime that is declaratively against these things

Was it though? Milosevic's regime? Even declaratively? I'm not sure.

Eric Gordy said...

The bit about declarative opposition to the US and globalisation came late for Milosevic, I think not in an intensive way until after 1999 (there was also a period in 1991 and 1992, which was connected to war mobilisation, but it passed). This is probably because for a period, especially around Dayton, Milosevic calculated that he might get the support of the US, a calculation that obviously no longer seemed to work once the war in Kosovo began. There is an alternative explanation (which I do not find very persuasive) that as his base of support shrank, Milosevic turned increasingly to Seselj and JUL to shape his regime. But definitely by the time 2000 rolls around, Milosevic is relying almost exclusively on antiglobalist rhetoric. It is probably possible to do some kind of division into periods, though.

T K Vogel said...

Eric, you finally did what I've only ever dreamed of and never bothered with (not that I could've done such a brilliant job). The first link is splendid, it gives you a Who's Who of the whole bunch -- even Carlos Martins Branco is there!

Anonymous said...

There are periods. Frex, Milosevic went through a phase immediately post-Dayton when he toyed with the rhetoric of "privatization" and "free markets"... not because those things were happening in Serbia (well, privatization sort of was, but in the worst way possible), but because he thought it might score points in the West.

That was brief, though. Then Slobo became more overtly and stridently anti-American from early 1998 (when the Clinton administration started clearing its throat over Kosovo) onwards. There was a sharp bump upwards after autumn '98, when bombing was first put on the table.

Framing it in terms of anti-globalisation, though... I'm pretty sure that came later, either during or in the aftermath of Kosovo. In '98-'99 it was more old fashioned anti-imperialist rhetoric, straight from the good old days of Comintern. I don't think he caught on to the hip, hop, happening new flava until he saw how Western public opinion took shape in 1999. Specifically, he saw broad weak support for the war, with pockets of outrage and resistance on the far left and far right. So he crafted pitches that would appeal to the various and, um, diverse groups that opposed the war.

There was an anti-globalization theme, yes. Also a "they're persecuting us because we're the last socialists" story for the Old Left. (Neil Clark is still occasionally pushing this one over in the Guardian.) At the same time, there was also a "we're devout, peace-loving Orthodox people being bombed by secular liberals"... that one was aimed mostly at the US right, but picked up some votes in Great Britain too. And then there was the whole "Orthodox Man" thing, which was of course for Russian consumption.

But, honestly, does it matter what Slobo said he was for or against? To a really rather startling degree, the man lacked ideology. He wanted power and wealth for himself and his family and for those (BogoljubcoughKariccough) who bowed deeply to him. And that was it. At the end of the day, he wasn't even a real Serb nationalist; he jettisoned the Serbs in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo too as soon as they were no longer useful.

There was no there there. "The purpose of power is power", and that.

Oddly, this makes the 'support Slobo because he said X' thing that much stronger. People as different as Russophile Tories, Old-Labour Socialists and Ramsey Clark all find Slobo appealing, because he they could project their own interpretations onto him. Why not? He expressed friendship and support for pretty much every nation, ideology and cause at one point or another.

Doug M.

Eric Gordy said...

Doug, I finally figured out that "Frex" means "for example." For a while there I thought that you were confused and imagined you were talking to Fred and Alex. This must be some more of that techno terminology the young folks are using these days.

Yakima_Gulag said...

This is brilliant how you refuted those people, they needed it badly!
I get tired of the whole moral equivalan cy thing adn it's good when someone does soemthing this thourough about it! Hvala!

rtxxpauo is todays Klingon word of the day, it means 'apple pie'

Anonymous said...

Um, Eric? We're just about the same age. Except the slightly older one is, cough, me.

I'm pretty sure 'frex' started as Usenet-speak. Which probably makes it sooo 90s, daddy-o.

Doug M.

John1975 said...

With all-due-respect, for I'm sure after the readers of your blog read this I'll have that many more enemies in the world. Jebiga!

To be honest I see this argument as the same old, this side blames this side cycle of hatred.

I've got to admit, I did agree with some of the issues the "Srebrenica-Report" documented. That being said, though, I also disagreed with some of the issues.

I like to think of myself as not taking sides in this "he-said/she-said" never ending argument, debate or what ever you want to call it.

I do have a tendency to "sympathize" with the Bosnian Serbs, though. The reason for this is I lived for years in the Republika of Srpska. A couple of these years were spent in Srebrenica it's self. With this said, even if some think I haven’t the “credentials” to speak of such things, I at least have the right to as currency from my years of tears, sweat and yes, more not than often, blood.

I lived, ate, shat, cried, laughed and played along side these people as if I were a Bosnian Serb. I got to know certain Bosnian Serbs on a human level. Not from behind a television set, or from behind a desk being briefed by U.S. Military Intelligence.

I’ve got to admit, at first I was a little scared, apprehensive and paranoid in the early days of my time spent in the R/S. All I heard was how the Serbs were a war mongering ruthless people who would drool at the very thought of me fucking up and allowing them the opportunity to abduct, torture and kill me. I was told never to go out alone and always prepare for the worst.

I’m proud to say the above turned out not to be true what so ever. And as I’ve noticed through my travels; the average Bosnian Serb is no different than any citizen from any other country from America to Africa to Iraq. The simple truth is these civilians are trying their best to live their lives and raise their children the best way they know.

Enough of that though. What concerns me the most is how I see absolutely no end to the bitterness, hatred, and malevolence between the Serbs and Bosnians.

I personally believe during the war the Bosnian authorities recognized how important it was for America to join their side. What these Bosnian authorities actually did to “help” realize this “fate” I just don’t know.

Yea, I’ve read all the reports and other conspiracy theories out there but with all the shit “piling” up from both sides, who’s to say what might be true and what is not. Governments of all countries are full of “individuals” ready to do just about anything to help their “cause”. I do not recognize all this “Left-Right-Liberal” bullshit. I’ve never understood it and to be honest with you, I don’t want to.

It gets under my skin at times how no one ever mentions the Bosniak atrocities. I personally am friends with individuals whose relatives were victims of Nasser Oric’s crimes. These families grieve just the same as families from Srebrenica. The only difference between the two is the numbers involved. I have no DOUBT if the roles were reversed in this insane war, and given the right opportunity, Mr. Oric would have committed the same kind of “massacre” in Bratunac against the Bosnian Serb civilians as Gen. Mladic did in Srebrenica against the Bosniak civilians.

Granted, Mr. Oric is in the Hague and is being tried for war crimes but, the media is only fixated on the crimes of the Serbs, mainly Srebrenica. And the only reason the media constantly reports this is because of the large numbers of civilian deaths.

Do you actually think the media gives two rats asses about the actual victims and their families? Hell no they don’t! “Srebrenica” sells books, magazines and online news articles. It does so because of the lurid and yet almost fascinating phrases such as, “Europe’s worst civilian massacre since WWII” – “Eight thousands men and boys butchered!” Do you think for one second Srebrenica would be getting all this “lime-light” if only 200 civilians were killed? I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the events that unfolded in July of 1995 are horrible and the individuals responsible for them should be brought to justice. I think the media owes the public to tell the entire story though; not just one side of it because of the “eye-catching” money making headlines. This type of reporting is leading to some angry Bosnian Serb kids.

I’ve actually sat down with some of these young Bosnian Serb teenagers and spoke with them about what happened when they were young boys and girls. These teenagers do not like the Bosniaks, America and the “Western-Media” world to this day.

One of the boys was so angry at how Srebrenica has “labeled” all the Serbs as monsters and yet nothing is ever mentioned of the dead Serb civilians who were murdered just as brutally and without remorse as those in Srebrenica by the hands of the Bosniak forces.

As I sat there listening to these kids I couldn’t help but sympathize with them. How would you feel if the entire world kept harping on one incident labeling your people “evil” and as monsters? I know how I would feel. I would hold a certain animosity towards those saying this all the time.

I was in Srebrenica during the eight anniversary of fall; the one where President Clinton paid a visit and spoke for a few minuets. I was on a security detail away from the actual burial site at Portacari so I didn’t get the chance to see Mr. Clinton.

I was glad I didn’t see this man. Weather it was true or not, the general population of Bratunac and Srebrenica got word believed Mr. Clinton was paid 200,000 dollars for few minuets of talking.

Do any of you realize how bad of a kick in the groin and an insult this was to the residents of these two towns? I agreed with the locals. Here you have simple villagers struggling day in and day out trying to survive the best way the can while this man gets paid hundreds of thousands for simply showing up? FUCK Bill Clinton!

Sorry, I got off track and ranted a little.

I guess what I’m trying to get across here to you all is; what really matters is the young generation of Serbia and Bosnia now. It’s time to forget, forgive and stop screaming back and forth.

I wish I were a reporter, for I would write a few segments as neutral as possible about how all this going back and forth shit is only hurting things more than helping, as far as the younger generations is concerned.

So, I’m caught in the middle. I would like to see someone organize a vote to be put out to all the civilians of Bosnia and Serbia.

The people would be voting to choose individuals from certain countries listed to conduct a “private” – “outside” – “independent” enquiry on Srebrenica.

When I say independent, I mean free from any political, media or personal influence what so ever.

The voters would check a box saying that what ever the outcome of the report they will accept it and move on.

I would then try to get as many news articles in circulation about this whole process to the people of the world.

The parents of the children I know in the R/S are teaching their kids to continue to hate the “enemy”. I can’t say for sure because I’ve never really worked inside the Federation however, I would be willing to bet my next pay check the parents of the children in the Federation are teaching their children to hate the “enemy” just the same.

Sadly, these kids are bound to continue the cycle of hatred on into the next war. What choices do they have? To the left of them they have their family and friends telling them one thing. Then to the right of them they have the media.

The media angers the Serb youth while the Bosniak youth is fooled into a belief that their side was in the right all along giving them a false sense of pride.

What’s more important, the continuous bickering back and forth on this issue, or the fact that what really matters is the youth of these two nations?

I vote for the youth!
Very respectfully to all,

Marko Attila Hoare said...

An excellent refutation of Johnstone's genocide denial by Eric Gordy.

One other point that needs refuting: Johnstone's belief, common to Balkan genocide deniers, that the war in the former Yugoslavia was the product of supposed German and/or American intervention. Those of us who've studied the subject in any detail, know that Milosevic was deliberately working for the break-up of Yugoslavia, and for a Serbian war of conquest, from as early as the spring of 1990 at the very least. This can be overwhelmingly documented. Johnstone's claim that the war was caused by German support for the recognition of Croatian and Slovene independence is simply rubbish, but nevertheless, conveniently shifts the blame away from the real authors of the conflict, by creating an 'imperialist' bogeyman, much as Stalinists used to invent 'imperialist conspiracies' to explain away everything that went wrong in the Soviet Union.

Eric Gordy said...

Marko, I appreciate the compliment. But I am getting stuck at this ""Those of us who've studied the subject in any detail know" followed by a contention that you know is not established as fact at all. Structurally this in not different from Johnstone's "few other indisputable facts" which are in fact disputable. Take it easy, this is a space for dialogue.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

Eric, I have - unlike Johstone - studied the primary, Serbian-language sources and can speak with at least a degree of authority. So I stand by what I said - I would be very happy to discuss with you the documentary evidence of Milosevic's destruction of Yugoslavia, and to hear your counter-arguments.

And to end my contribution to this thread: no, I don't think it's possible to have a dialogue with people who claim the Srebrenica massacre never happened. You won't influence them; and I seriously hope they won't influence you...

Eric Gordy said...

To the question of whether it is possible to have a dialogue on this blog, I think I will reserve the right to give the final answer. Otherwise, in his last two comments, MA Hoare is not arguing any longer against Diana Johnstone but in defence of his assertion that "Milosevic was deliberately working for the break-up of Yugoslavia, and for a Serbian war of conquest, from as early as the spring of 1990 at the very least." First he does this with a general assertion that "this can be overwhelmingly documented," and afterward with an invitation to recognise that he "can speak with at least a degree of authority." This is the wrong audience for assertions on the basis of personal authority. The job of a researcher is to share and analyse documents. Merely alluding to their existence doesn't do the job.

Let me be clear on what we are not disagreeing about: this whole "who started the war" business. Although it is not a question that interests me much, both Dr Hoare and I agree that the contention that there was some sort of conspiracy involving Germany, the Vatican, the Death Eaters and my aunt Martha is a lot of silly and tendentious nonsense. What I am taking him to task for is the assertion that people "who've studied the subject in any detail" agree on his date of "spring of 1990 at the very least" to mark the turn of the Milosevic regime and the military against Yugoslavia. This is simply not the case: it is an outlying claim. Most reputable researchers agree on a date of March 1991. The most complete analysis I would recommend is the one by Dejan Jovic (2003).

Attila Hoare does not use the spring 1990 date in his previously published work, as far as I know. In his review of Susan Woodward's Balkan Tragedy, (http://www.mosquitonet.com/~prewett/balkantragedy.html) otherwise a thesis statement for his version of the causes of the war, he does not make this claim. The closest he comes is arguing that Serbs in Croatia and BH were being armed "since the summer of 1990." In other places (like his "left revisionism" article: http://listserv.acsu.buffalo.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0308&L=justwatch-l&D=1&O=D&F=&S=&P=49287) he cites the 1995 memoir by Borisav Jovic (is this the document in question?) which claims that the idea of forming a Yugoslavia without Slovenia and Croatia was first floated on 28 June 1990. But this document (the credibility of B. Jovic aside) describes a proposal that was never realised, and may not have been taken seriously, and in any case is different from what was attempted. He cites the 1993 memoir by Veljko Kadijevic: this gives a spring 1990 date (pp. 92-93), but what Kadijevic says relates to something else. There is one point (pp. 104-105) where Kadijevic traces the dissolution of Yugoslavia to the Fourteenth Congress of the SKJ in January 1990, but he attributes the blame to Slovenia, and in any case Kadijevic is neither a disinterested party nor a reliable source (in any case, if the loyalty of the military of the question, Kadijevic has better one-liners: try p. 38, where he describes the military's refusal to communicate with the federal government). The earliest possible date offered anywhere in the published literature comes from Louis Sell (2002), who gives a date of March 1990 -- but Sell offers no documentation, and his conclusion is apparently based on an interpretation of Borisav Jovic's memoir which is not generally shared, not even by Sell's former boss, the late Warren Zimmermann (1995, p. 125). A further complication is suggested in the memoirs of Adil Zulfikarpasic (1995) which indicate negotiations on a confederal agreement going on through the middle of 1991.

If the claim is not in his published work, how about his unpublished work? I am not acquainted with all of his unpublished work, of course, but it is possible to go by traces. Attila Hoare told the journalist Jasna Zanić Nardini of Vjesnik in July 2005 (http://www.hsp1861.hr/vijesti6/050607jz.htm): "Radeći za Haaški sud, sudjelovao sam na pripremanju optužnice protiv Miloševića." So certainly if he had overwhelming documentary evidence that would strengthen this important indictment, some sign of this would show up in the indictment. It does not. The "Second amended Croatia indictment" (http://www.un.org/icty/indictment/english/mil-2ai020728e.htm) gives a late summer date: "This joint criminal enterprise came into existence before l August 1991 and continued until at least June 1992." The "Amended BH indictment" (http://www.un.org/icty/indictment/english/mil-ai040421-e.htm) gives the same date: "The joint criminal enterprise was in existence by 1 August 1991 and continued until at least 31 December 1995." The "Second amended Kosovo indictment" (http://www.un.org/icty/indictment/english/mil-2ai011029e.htm) gives a much later date: "This joint criminal enterprise came into existence no later than October 1998 and continued throughout the time period when the crimes alleged in counts 1 to 5 of this indictment occurred: beginning on or about 1 January 1999 and continuing until 20 June 1999."

Why does it matter whether we are talking about one spring or the following summer? Because we are scholars, which means that we have a responsibility: maybe not to one another, but to people who come to our work with the expectation that we have something to say that is not a byproduct of an already formed opinion.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

Eric, I was hoping for a more private discussion, as blog debates tend to be swamped by those who enjoy slanging matches, which I don't. But since you have launched such a detailed critique of my work, I'll respond here.

First of all, you are right that I should not have used the formulation "Those of us who have studied the subject...", as this indeed presupposes that other specialists in the field, like yourself, agree with me, which evidently is not the case. However, if I understand you correctly, where we disagree is not on the question of whether Milosevic promoted the break-up of Yugoslavia, but merely on whether this began in the spring of 1990 or a year later.

You attribute to me a much more powerful role in the ICTY than was in fact the case. I was part of a team of investigators, among several teams working on the Milosevic indictments, and it was the lawyers, rather than us academics, who were the dominant ones. Furthermore, legal and historical evidence do not work the same way; what we consider convincing, they do not, and vice versa. Nor do the indictments contain all the information gathered by the prosecution; most of what I wrote went into internal memos, which in turn contained only a small proportion of the ICTY's enormous documentary evidence. Finally, the indictments concerned Milosevic's responsibility for war-crimes, not his responsibility for promoting the break-up of Yugoslavia. So I do not see how they are relevant here.

Nor can I accept your depiction of my review of Woodward's book as a ‘thesis statement'. This review was written ten years ago, when I was still a graduate student. My thesis was on the Bosnian Partisan movement in WW2. I began full-time research on Serbia and the break-up of Yugoslavia much later; a ten-year-old book review is hardly my definitive statement.

You question my citing of Kadijevic in support of my argument. Kadijevic argues that in the spring of 1990, "the tasks of the armed forces in the internal level were modified in the direction of creating the conditions for the peaceful outcome of the Yugoslav crisis, including the peaceful exit from the Yugoslav state of those Yugoslav nations that so wished."

Aside from the euphemistic use of the term "peaceful", I see no reason why Kadijevic's statement should not be taken at face value: following the nationalist election victories in Slovenia and Croatia in the spring of 1990, the JNA was working for an "outcome" of the Yugoslav crisis that involved the "exit" from the Yugoslav state of Croatia and Slovenia. This appears to me to be in keeping with Jovic's account of his agreement with Kadijevic.

Your claim, that the plan described by Jovic regarding the expulsion of Slovenia and Croatia and the formation of a smaller Yugoslavia without them was "never realised", is incorrect, as this plan was indeed realised. Slovenia and Croatia were indeed expelled from Yugoslavia, through bullying and obstruction by Serbia and the JNA, which made their continued stay in the Federation untenable. And the rump Yugoslavia was indeed formed. The plan was only "never realised" in the sense that the rump Yugoslavia turned out to be much smaller than expected - only Serbia and Montenegro - because Milosevic failed to bring in the other territories he wanted. But then Milosevic's own strategy was contradictory.

Your insistence that March 1991 marked the key change of strategy begs some questions. Why did the JNA intervene already in August 1990 to defend Serb rebels in Knin ? This, intervention, which effectively began the carving out of new Serb borders in Croatia, was entirely in keeping with Jovic's plan.

On 28 September 1990, a new Serbian Constitution was promulgated by the Republic's assembly, which announced: ‘The Republic of Serbia determines and guarantees: 1) the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia, and its international position and relations with other states and international organisations;...'. On 23 October, Serbia imposed customs duties on imports from Croatia and Slovenia. How does this square with your view that Serbia did not begin to promote the break up of Yugoslavia until the following spring ? It need hardly be pointed out that the Serbian regime was at this time already heavily active on behalf of the Serbs in Croatia.

Finally, it is unclear to me why you uphold the validity of the post-facto memoirs of Zimmerman and Zulfikarpasic - two somewhat naive figures tangential to the main events - while questioning the veracity of Jovic's detailed, initially private diaries. Jovic's diary hardly portrays its author in a flattering light, while Zimmerman was highly sympathetic to the JNA.

Eric Gordy said...

I have never engaged in "slanging matches" with anyone, and today does not look like a good day to start. But if you want to discuss what the evidence says about the events of 1990 and 1991, that is certainly fine.

I was interested in where the "spring of 1990" claim came from, since it was a new claim. I thought maybe it was based on new evidence, but it looks like we are still stuck with the material that has been available since 1995: the memoirs by Jovic, Kadijevic, and a few others (for the record, there are a few other memoirs aside from the ones that have been mentioned in this exchange so far -- among them Bobetko, 1996; Dizdarevic, 2000; Filipovic, 2000; Halilovic, 1998; Mamula, 2000; Sarinic, 1999; Stambolic, 1995, and also books I don't have at hand to give dates for like the memoirs by Drnovsek, Mesic, Cosic and Plavsic, plus a 2001 book by Jovic in which he revises some of what he says in the 1995 book -- but unfortunately all of the memoirs share the same partial and self-interested qualities that memoirs generally have). It's true that Zulfikarpasic was not "A-list," but his memoir is useful in the sense that it shows that political actors were operating on more than one track fairly late in the game, even if they were manipulating him. I'd agree that Zimmermann and Sell are more or less "tangential," though they do give a picture of what US officials thought was happening. The nature of the literature forces us to do what we are doing, parsing the words of pretty mediocre texts by former public figures as though they were Biblical texts, if the Bible had been written by a bunch of people trying retrospectively to accuse one another for their own actions.

The question of whether there is one person responsible for everything (like the question over whether some republics declared independence or were "expelled") seems too obscurantist even for me. If historical events had only one cause then all of us academics would be out of a job, and I like my job. I think the only reason anybody would bother pursuing such a thesis is because it might help in sustaining a political position. But it wouldn't help very much. In any case, it is pretty clear that Croatia and Slovenia were treated differently from one another.

The evidence for spring 1990 is sketchy. Even Jovic tends to go more for late summer or fall. The best quotations come from Kadijevic, but he is talking about the perceptions that were shared in the command of JNA, not about Milosevic's plans. Since Kadijevic's memoir also shows that the military was chronically insubordinate, it makes for bad evidence of coordination with Milosevic and the Serbian leadership. Clearly there were a lot of machinations going on at different levels, so it doesn't make sense to look only here. If there is a "key moment" to be found, it has to be one where all of the factors come together: the movements for independence become irresistible, all plans for preserving (or, if you prefer, dominating) Yugoslavia are abandoned, the Serbian political leadership feels able to start a violent process it knows that most people oppose, and the military is irretrievably compromised with one of the parties. That is to say that the point of no return is not reached when somebody begins talking up an idea, but when there is a coordination of forces that, like in tragedy, makes the reestablishment of the previously existing state of things impossible.

Why is March 1991 the most likely point? This is when the majority of pieces were in place. Those pieces are:

1) The SKJ had ceased to exist (D. Jovic's analysis is authoritative on the genesis and consequences of the XIV Congress).
2) Conflicts between JNA units and police reserves in Croatia had begun (Kadijevic).
3) The Belgrade protests had put the military in an irretrievable compromised position with the Serbian leadership (B. Jovic, M. Hadzic).
4) The Belgrade protests made the Serbian leadership believe that they could be violently forced from power (B. Jovic, D.Jovic).
5) The military intervention in the Belgrade protests brought public opinion in Slovenia and Croatia definitively in favor of independence (I. Siber, D. Jovic).
6) JNA's attempt to force the declaration of a state of emergency had failed.
7) Milosevic might have thought that the EC and US would support him (Antonic, Bobetko, Cohen, B. Jovic and Woodward think so; Hadzic and Kadijevic do not)
8) There may or may not have been a "Karadjordjevo agreement" between Milosevic and Tudjman to divide Bosnia and Hercegovina (there is not definitive evidence for this: the closest bit comes from the ICTY testimony by Ante Markovic and Petar Kriste, but these accounts, like all others, are assertions of secondhand knowledge).

I can offer a reservation on the question of how central the military is to the whole process. There is not yet reliable information that would persuasively demonstrate what I suspect to be the case, which is that Milosevic distrusted the military, weakened it deliberately, and relied heavily instead on the police and various "services." Simatovic, Stanisic and Kertesz will have to write up their memoirs too, I think.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

Eric, you failed to address the points made in my last post, concerning the events in Knin of August 1990 and the new Serbian constitution of September 1990. Both of these, it seems to me, demonstrate pretty clearly that the Serbian leadership was committed to breaking up Yugoslavia and going to war, well before the spring of 1991. A glance through the Serbian leadership statements of this period makes this clear. I seem to remember that Laura Silber and Allan Little (whose book is still the best on the break-up of Yugoslavia) also describe a Serbian-Slovene collaboration during 1990 - since both had abandoned Yugoslavia.

Regarding your eight points concerning March 1991: 1) "The SKJ had ceased to exist" - this took place in early 1990, therefore it better supports spring 1990 as the turning point; 2) "Conflicts between JNA units and police reserves in Croatia had begun" - again, this conflict had already begun by August 1990 - well before March 1991.

Points 3-5 concern the Belgrade protests; these were undoubtedly a further catalyst, but it is difficult to see why an internal Serbian dispute should be more of a turning point than the collapse of the 14th Congress; or the JNA's actions in Kosovo; or the earlier JNA-Slovene conflict; or the JNA's intervention in the Knin events. Surely, all these events were more important for changing Croatian and Slovene opinion than the crushing of the Belgrade protests ?

6) "The JNA's attempt to force the declaration of a state of emergency had failed"; yet as you say yourself, the Serbian leadership barely trusted the military; it is therefore difficult to imagine their policy was decisively shifted by the JNA's predictable climbdown in March 1991 - and indeed, Jovic's diary makes clear that it wasn't (unless you again disregard this source).

Points 7 and 8 are, I feel, of secondary importance.

On the question of the JNA's relevance to the entire process; it appears we disagree here too, though you are certainly right that Milosevic distrusted and weakened the military. But as you say, this will have to await further research and writing up.

I am not sure if you are attributing to me the view that "there is one person responsible for everything" ? If so, I refer you back to my interview in Vjesnik, which makes clear that I precisely reject the view that Milosevic was the sole culprit. On the contrary, I attribute blame for the war to a group of individuals, and feel deeply disappointed that the ICTY prosecution should have chosen to personalise the issue around Milosevic alone.

Eric Gordy said...

Okay, I'm gonna hang back a bit and see whether anybody else joins in here. Attila, if this really is, as Bill Withers and Grover Washington Jr say, "just the two of us," then maybe we should continue this little party in a diffferent way.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

You're probably right; and as there aren't so many of us academic regional specialists around, it'll probably remain just the two of us. So email me when you have a free moment, and we can continue the discussion.

All the best,

Eric Gordy said...

Readers: As you can see above, I thought that this exchange was getting a little too "academic" to interest anybody but Marko Hoare and myself (even if we were enjoying it). So I suggested that we might do better to continue it privately, and he agreed. Then some people began to write in to ask us to keep our exchange public. Admittedly it's only a couple of people, but I guess that is evidence enough, in this small world of Balkanology, that at least some people are following this and that we are doing something more useful than just entertaining ourselves. So I wrote to Marko Hoare to ask whether he would agree to continuing, he did, and here we go again!

I think if I understand where we are so far, there are two major points where we disagree: at what date to mark the point of no return, and (to put it very crudely) "who destroyed Yugoslavia."

About the dates, it looks like you are suggesting three alternatives to March 1991: 1) the XIV Congress of SKJ in January 1990, 2) the beginning of violent conflicts in Croatia in summer 1990, and 3) the Serbian constitution of September 1990. What I would say is that at least 1 and 2 are important, that 3 is probably less important, but that none of them by themselves mark a really dramatic turn. Instead, a lot of elements had to come together to really set the stage, and probably the most important of all of these is that the question gets resolved as to whether the JNA is going to try to defend Yugoslavia or place itself at the disposal of the Serbian leadership.

Marking the Party congress as the breaking point requires assuming that the only way that Yugoslavia could have held together was through the SKJ. It may be that later events can be interpreted to show that to be the case, but I do not think it was an obvious or dominant interpretation at the time. Maybe it would work better with a proviso: the dissolution of SKJ plus the existence of two competing and incommensurable projects for the reorganisation of the state (the confederal model promoted by Slovenia vs the recentralisation model promoted by Serbia) meant that eventually the state would fall apart without SKJ. Probably two more ingredients would have to be added there: the intransigence of the Serbian and Slovenian sides (who rejected all compromises put forward by Macedonia, BH, and the EC), and the political weakness and miscalculations of Ante Markovic and the federal government. But you see where this is leading: with so many open-ended variables in the pot, it does not reach the state of inevitability. It might be that the elections in Slovenia, Croatia and BH get a little closer to inevitabilty, but this is a point where Zulfikarpasic's memoir becomes valuable again: he emphasises the intensive coordination between SDA, SDS and HDZ (including joint rallies and "vote-sharing"). This coordination only makes sense if all three parties were assuming that they would be operating in the context of Yugoslavia.

The beginning of armed conflict in Croatia is also probably necessary but not sufficient. The clashes in summer 1990 were local, perhaps the foreshadowing of war but not war itself. There were local leaders still working on possibilities of compromise and conciliation (Jovan Raskovic, Veljko Dzakula, Josip Reihl-Kir...) -- later one of them would be killed (not by JNA!) and all would be replaced with more extreme types, but this had not happened yet, suggesting that the possibilities for something other than a violent conflict over territory were still open. A question that research still has to resolve is how the hardliners like Martic, Babic and Hadzic got to dominate the Croatian SDS. My suspicion is that this was the result of intervention by the Serbian "sluzbe" in 1991, but the information that would confirm this or not is not available yet. It also seems not quite clear that JNA had definitively taken sides by this time: sometimes in 1990 they would shore up "Serbian gains," and sometimes they would come in to separate the two sides. If Spegelj is to be believed, Tudjman was not persuaded himself at this time that JNA had definitively taken sides. (I have unfortunately not yet read Nina Caspersen's dissertation, but I anticipate that it will shed considerable light on these questions)

My sense (at this point, it is largely guesswork) is that there were probably three factions in the military at the time: 1) a group which saw the goal of the military as defusing conflict in the hope that the politicians would come up with a peaceful settlement, 2) a group which thought Yugoslavia could be preserved by means of a military coup or some other independent show of force, and 3) a group ready to go along with whatever the Serbian leadership might plan (what this involved at the time isn't clear: using force to prevent independence? acquiescing to independence but taking territory from Croatia and maybe BH?), and that Group 1 was the weakest of the lot, but that this conflict had not been resolved yet. This is part of the importance of March 1991 from the military point of view: it completely defeated Group 1, and forced the people from Group 2 into Group 3, or out of the military.

As for the October 1990 constitution, I think the important part is not the preamble but Article 135, which declares the primacy of laws of the republic over federal law. The Slovenian constitution of December has a similar article. But the context is important here: this was not a declaration of independence but a byproduct of the political conflict of the republics between one another and all of them against the federal government. And again, inserting a clause on the relationship between the republics and the federal government, even one that undermines the federal government, implies that the writers were assuming that there would continue to be a federal government. In any case nobody was holding to law at the time kao pijan plota. A concrete action might be a more appropriate marker than a legal declaration: how about Milosevic's looting of the national treasury ahead of the elections in December 1990? The most important use of Article 135 of which I am aware was in 2001, when Djindjic invoked it as the basis for the authority to extradite Milosevic over the objections of Kostunica.

So back to March 1991. The protests were an "internal Serbian dispute" on the morning of 9 March. Once the military was called out in the evening, it was not internal any longer: it meant 1) that they were willing to take orders from one of the republican governments (strictly speaking, the intervention was ordered by Jovic in the name of the federal presidency, but see p. 63 of Jovic, he hid not consult Mesic or Drnovsek), and 2) they were willing to take armed action against civilians. So I think it was understood in Slovenia and Croatia as a Serbian coup to monopolise control over the military. The failed state of emergency a few days later brought the point home: the military had the opportunity to circumvent the Serbian leadership and impose a federal solution (they even had the members of the presidency hidden at a secret location at Topcider, and Mesic thought that he had been arrested) but they did not take it. So I think this is the point where the military loses all possibility of being an independent actor and becomes the armed wing of one of the parties to the dispute.

Briefly on the question of the sole culprit: I might have misunderstood your position, but it looks like you were telling Vjesnik's reporter that all of the "bad guys" were still on the Serbian side but that the "joint criminal enterprise" was not conceived broadly enough to include all of them. This seems untenable to me, as if it means arguing that every political actor except the ones in the Serbian leadership wanted to preserve a federal state. Probably it confuses the issue to put it in the context of ICTY, since the destruction of the state and the commission of war crimes are separate issues, although they are related. I'd suggest that a more interactive hypothesis makes sense, that the Serbian leadership behaved in a way that tended to give more fuel to the independence movements in Serbia and Croatia than they might have had otherwise. This would not be inconsistent with an emphasis on Milosevic's responsibility, and it does not require excluding other facts. I'd add that this is why I still think that the question of whether there was a "Karadjordjevo agreement" matters, because this would shed more light on the motivations of different actors.

Anonymous said...

Eric, a couple of points here. I hope you don't mind.

1) While broadly I agree with you, ISTM that you're underestimating the importance of the outbreak of violence in Croatia. I wouldn't say this made the breakup inevitable, but it was surely a huge step on the downward path.

Serbian popular sentiment was strongly in favor of the rebels. It was seen as, like Kosovo, another example of Serbs being discriminated against and being placed in physical danger. This was in large part because there already existed, by 1990, a... vast Serb nationalist propaganda machine? That might be too strong. (Or it might not). But whatever you call it, there was already an apparatus with various elements -- academics, politicians, media personalities -- and using a particular set of tropes, that had been working the Kosovo vein for years. This apparatus was, you might say, preadapted to taking over the cause of Serbs in Croatia. And it acted as a very efficient transmission belt for turning a fixable local problem into an intractable national one.

Try the counterfactual: peace prevails in Knin, and indeed throughout Croatia, through all of 1990 and 1991. Suddenly things look a lot more hopeful, no?

Of course, this may just mean that Knin was a necessary condition to the breakup, not that it was the point of no return. And you can believe that point was reached in August-September '90 and still not think it was deliberately orchestrated, by Milosevic or anyone else. Still...

2) March 1991: IIRC, you're saying that the unsuccessful (indeed, abortive) military coup in Serbia caused the other republics to conclude that JNA had become a tool of the Serbian leadership. Is that it? Because I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "a Serbian coup to monopolise control over the military."

Again, let's try the counterfactual. Suppose JNA /had/ taken over and tried to enforce a federal solution. As late as March 1991, was this really still plausible? If not, then doesn't that mean Yugoslavia was over the brink by March, however long it might have taken to hit bottom?

Doug M.

Anonymous said...
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Marko Attila Hoare said...

I think it's important to distinguish between two different questions: At what point did the Serbian leadership begin deliberately to promote the break-up of Yugoslavia ? And at what point did the break-up become inevitable ? The second is a much bigger and more difficult question, of course. But it was my claim regarding the first question - that the Milosevic regime began promoting the break-up from the spring of 1990 - that provoked this discussion.

I agree that Yugoslavia could not have been held together by the SKJ, but that was not what I was claiming (I was referring to the effect of the break-up of the 14th Congress on opinion in Slovenia and Croatia). The real significance of the collapse of the 14th Congress in January 1990 was that it marked the end of Milosevic's attempt to dominate a united Yugoslavia. This, followed by the nationalist electoral victories in Slovenia and Croatia, brought about a shift in the opinion of the Serbian political leadership in favour of breaking up Yugoslavia and waging a war for territory, in order to establish a Great Serbia behind the figleaf of a 'new Yugoslavia' without Slovenia and Croatia. The transitional period of Serbian leadership thought, I'd argue, began in January 1990 and ended in June 1990, with the Jovic-Kadijevic-Milosevic plan to 'expel' Slovenia and Croatia from Yugoslavia.

I cited the Knin events of August 1990 and the promulgation of the new Serbian constitution in September 1990, not to posit these dates as alternative turning-points, but to show that the break-up of Yugoslavia and the outbreak of war were already decided upon well before March 1991. I agree that March 1991 was important, but I'd put a slightly different slant on it: it is true that it marked the point at which the Serbian leadership definitely became the dominant member in the alliance with the JNA, while the latter fell into line behind it; but it is not true that up till that point the JNA was neutral in the conflict between the republics. In his memoirs, General Mamula claims that Kadijevic had already succumbed to a Great Serbian orientation by the 1988-89. Already in May 1990, Kadijevic and Jovic had coordinated the disarming of the Territorial Defence in Croatia and Slovenia.

I would, at this point, question your claim that the JNA's policy in the conflict in Croatia/Krajina was not entirely one sided. To "separate the two sides", as you put it, was to help cement Serb rebel gains. If you think I'm being unfair, I'd contrast the JNA's behaviour in Croatia in 1990-91 with its - and Serbia's - behaviour in Kosovo. In Kosovo, Serbia and the JNA both accepted that the Republic of Serbia should have full sovereignty and control over Kosovo - there was no "separating of the two sides" there. And this despite the fact that Kosovo was an autonomous member of the Yugoslav federation in its own right. By contrast, the JNA prevented the constitutionally legitimate organs of the Republic of Croatia from reestablishing their control over Krajina - a rebel territory with no constitutional legitimacy. And this without any constitutional authorisation from the Yugoslav Presidency ! Thus, the JNA was already taking the side of Serbia and the Serb rebels against Croatia in 1990.

I'd agree there were different currents of opinion within the JNA, nevertheless, the dominant current was that of Kadijevic, as Yugoslav Secretary of Defence, who was Milosevic's ally. It is also true that until March 1991 and indeed beyond, Kadijevic was vacillating between the Great Serbia and united Yugoslavia options. But well before March 1991, the top JNA leadership was 1) hostile to Yugoslav Prime Minister Ante Markovic, even though he was a committed Yugoslav; 2) rejected the authority of both the Yugoslav government and Presidency, as containing "enemies of Yugoslavia"; and 3) rejected the authority of a member of the Yugoslav Federation - Croatia - within its own borders. The JNA, was therefore, effectively working for the break-up of Yugoslavia from at least the spring of 1990 onward - and quite possibly before.

In this context, the question of whether moderate elements among the Croats and Croatian Serbs might have prevailed - Reihl-Kir, Raskovic, etc. - is a red herring: even if Tudjman had been a saint and treated his Serb minority impeccably - which he of course wasn't and didn't - this would not have stopped the Serbia-JNA juggernaut from crashing down on Croatia. Whatever else he wanted, Tudjman didn't want war with the JNA, and would have made any number of concessions - even territorial - to avoid it. And as you say, he naively believed the JNA was not irrevocably hostile - a mistake subsequently made by Izetbegovic, who couldn't be accused of persecuting his Serb minority. In other words, it's enough for one side to want war, in which case the other is powerless to stop it.

Regarding the Serbian constitution and Serbia's declaration of sovereignty: this would be less significant if the Serbian leadership had accepted the principle of reciprocity; i.e. if it had accepted the same right of other republics (Croatia, Bosnia) to declare themselves sovereign. Then, of course, there would have been no war. But the Serbian leadership 1) declared sovereignty in its existing borders; 2) rejected the right of other republics to declare sovereignty in their existing borders; and 3) attempted to seize control of Federal institutions, like the army, to make war against other republics. Thus, the 1990 Serbian constitution recognised the continued existence of the Federal insititutions because it needed these institutions to make war, not because it respected their legitimacy.

Finally, I think you have confused the issues I raised in my Vjesnik interview. I certainly did not - and have never - suggested that all the non-Serb actors wanted to preserve a Federal state, or that there were only "bad guys" among the Serbs. Nor, for that matter, did I suggest that the "joint criminal enterprise" was not conceived broadly enough. What I was saying was that the group of individuals responsible for orchestrating the war - who were actually named in the existing ICTY indictments as part of the "joint criminal enterprise" - were for the most part not indicted. The question of whether Croatia or Slovenia did or didn't want independence is irrelevant in this context. I don't consider unilateral secession to be necessarily objectionable - but I do consider wars of aggression to be so.

Eric Gordy said...

To Anonymous-- Did you want to pose a complex question, or just to suggest that there might be some that exist?

Both Doug's and Marko's posts are leading me to think that the discussion is now at the point where the disagreements cannot be resolved with evidence, at least not with the evidence that is currently available. It is now on the territory of trying to guess what was happening behind scenes that were well hidden, of trying to guess at the motivations of different actors, and trying to imagine what would have happened if some events had turned out otherwise. Or else it is on the territory of competing interpretations of facts that are acknowledged, but more information is needed to make any of these interpretations authoritative. This is not necessarily a bad place to be: there is some value in an assessment of the state of the evidence, and a lot of value in having some kind of "wish list" of evidence that needs to become available. On the side of this there are probably some political disagreements between us, but in the context of honest research these are simply backgrounds for interpretation.

I apologise if I misrepresented your position on responsibility. I have also done enough news interviews to know that they often do not succeed in representing the entirety of the thinking behind a printed remark. I am not sure whether there is much point in pursuing the question of whether OTP has indicted the same way either of us might have preferred or not, since as you pointed out earlier, lawyers and academics have different standards of truth, and the academic ones are more interesting.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

Eric, no need to apologise; there's plenty of space for misunderstanding in this particular minefield.

It seems we disagree on how conclusive the existing evidence is. But that is all within the bounds of scholarly disagreement.

Regarding the OTP indictments: what I actually said was that academics and lawyers have different standards of evidence. Whether lawyers have any standards of truth at all is a more controversial question. But I think the OTP could have indicted Kadijevic and Adzic, at least, on the basis of older existing indictments, more easily - from the lawyers' point of view - than they indicted Rasim Delic, for example. Why they chose not to is a moot point...

Still, we managed to conduct a prolongued public debate with only one snide remark from a certain "Anonymous" !

Dan Albihari said...
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Marko Attila Hoare said...

Sorry, make that two snide remarks - both by people lacking the courage to write under their own names. Or perhaps just one person... Yes, it's so brave to write poison pen messages, hiding behind the veil of anonymity, isn't it, "Dan Albihari" ? Perhaps this heroic undercover operator could keep his or her libellous remarks and personal abuse out of what has been, up till now, a serious discussion ? There are plenty of other blogs where he or she may meet more like-minded spirits...

Dan Albihari said...
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Eric Gordy said...

"Dan," welcome to the site, and I'm glad you've decided to take part at least under some name. Can I suggest that substance (with which you don't seem to be unfamiliar) advances the discussion more than namecalling? (Mind you, I kind of like "salon leftist" -- hair or nails?) Marko and I disagree on a lot of points, but this didn't prevent a discussion that might be useful to some people on the subject of what the available evidence shows. You might disagree with us both, which is certainly fine, but stick to analysis of the evidence. If all you want to say is "hooray team," then there are sites that are more welcoming to that sort of thing.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

It would be more flattering that "Dan Albihari" has spent so much effort tracking my career, if he or she were a real person. But apart from being a coward, he is also a liar: I have, of course, never endorsed the ethnic cleaning of Serbs in Croatia or anywhere else. Or perhaps he could provide a quote that suggests otherwise ? For the record, I did support the Croatian Army's liberation (yes, liberation) of the so-called Krajina in 1995, but not the war-crimes that this involved. Contradictory ? I think all of us would have supported the liberation of Poland and Czechoslovakia from the Nazis in 1945, but not the expulsion of several million Germans that followed. And I was a member of a team at the ICTY's OTP that has helped to indict several Croatian generals for war-crimes against Serbs, including Janko Bobetko, the Croatian Army Chief of Staff in 1992-95.

Albihari's sympathy for Serb fascism is very clearly demonstrated by his claim that, by drawing a parallel between the crimes of the Nedic regime and Chetniks and those of the Ustashas, I am "whitewashing" the Ustashas. Apparently, if one recognises the crimes of both Serb and Croat fascists, one is "whitewashing" Croat fascists ! Nedic participated in the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews (as Israel Gutman's Encylopedia of the Holocaust makes clear); the Ustasha and Nedic regimes' crimes against the Jews were equated even in Tito-era literature, such as Zdenko Levntal's 'Crimes of the Fascist Occupiers and their Collaborators against the Jews in Yugoslavia', 1952; and the Chetnik genocide of the Bosnian Muslims has been written about by eminent Serb historians, such as Vladimir Dedijer. Thus, it would appear that Albihari is a genocide-denier in relation to World War II, as well as in relation to today. I recognise both the Ustasha and Chetnik genocides - does Albihari ? Or does he deny one of them ?

I don't believe I have ever described Woodward as a "Serb apologist". But I make no apologies for my review of her book. Woodward claims that Austrian and German support for Croatian independence in 1991 was "an extension of the German idea of citizenship through blood alone (jus sanguinis) and the impossibility of ethnically heterogeneous states - ideas that had been at the core of fascist ideology" (p.206). Since Albihari is so concerned with the correct characterisation of fascism, he may wish to reflect on what this statement says about Woodward's own scholarly credentials and objectivity.

I shouldn't really need to defend my own credentials as a scholar from an anonymous maligner, but for the record, I am one of the teachers of an undergraduate course on fascism here at the University of Cambridge, and have recently been commissioned to contribute an article on fascism in Yugoslavia to a volume by Oxford University Press. There is, of course, plenty of disagreement among scholars as to what 'fascism' means, but as Albihari is 1) afraid of writing under his own name and 2) a whitewasher of the pro-Nazi Nedic regime and the Nazi-collaborationist Chetniks, I'd suggest his interpretation carries less weight than mine.

Albihari is clearly one of the group of people who responded to the Yugoslav genocide of the 1990s, not by showing solidarity to the victims, but by apologising for the perpetrators. It's not enough for these people that tens of thousands of civilians were slaughtered, raped and maimed, but they have to deny the crimes, denigrate the victims and spin elaborate conspiracy theories to explain it all away as an "imperialist plot" or "media invention". They're not essentially different from Holocaust deniers, and I see no reason to treat them with any more respect.

Oh yes, "Trotskyite to neocon" - I'd rather be either a Trotskyite or a neocon, than a Chetnik, or a neo-Stalinist, or a genocide-denier.

Eric Gordy said...

Well, I can see that my little intervention to calm things down didn't succeed. Marko, I understand your desire to defend yourself but there is no need to go over the top. "Dan," you are not a real person so you have no need to defend yourself. If the two of you want to go on to have an exchange about the sides in WW2, you can, but if you won't play nice I'll delete the whole exchange, starting with "Dan's" first comment back when he was "Anonymous." Then you can insult one another e-mail if you want.

Dan Albihari said...
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Dan Albihari said...
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Eric Gordy said...

Okay, I'm cool with that.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

First of all, enough of these children's games with bogus names. "Dan Albihari" is actually Rory Yeomans of SSEES-UCL. Has everybody got that ? Rory Yeomans of SSEES-UCL. I mean, what kind of a person writes poison-pen messages under a pseudonym, and then reveals enough information for you to work out who he is ? It's pathetic, it really is.

As Rory aka "Dan" seems to have avoided addressing a few of the points in an argument that is already going against him, let us refresh his memory:

1) He accused me of supporting the ethnic cleansing of the Krajina Serbs in 1995. When I challenged him to produce a quote to prove this serious charge, he failed to do so, despite clearly having followed my work with some dedication. So again, can he produce a quote to prove his charge, or was he saying something that wasn't true ?

2) He accused me of "whitewashing the Ustashe" because I equated the crimes of the Ustashe with those of the Chetniks and Nedicites. Now, it is a fact that the official Titoist line has always been, precisely, to equate the Serb and the Croat Nazi-collaborators. During World War II, the Yugoslav Partisans described the Chetniks and Nedicites as "Serb Ustashe". This means, that by Rory's logic, people such as Tito and Mose Pijade were guilty of "whitewashing the Ustashe". Of course, one is free to disagree with the Titoist analysis of the Chetniks and Nedicites, though I think it is broadly accurate. But it is another thing entirely to accuse people of "whitewashing the Ustashe", just because they say what the Titoists had been saying for half a century. And then, to cap it all, he has the cheek to accuse others of "defamation" ! Again, can he provide a quote from anything I have written to show that I "whitewash the Ustashe", or has he made a second untrue statement ?

3) I asked Rory if he recognises the Chetnik genocide of the Muslims in World War II. He failed to answer. Now, in 1990, the Bosnian Serb historian and Partisan veteran Vladimir Dedijer, himself an expert on the Ustashe, had this to say: "In World War II, genocide was carried out against the Muslims on the part of members of the movement and armed forces of army general and Minister of War of the Yugoslav government in London, Dragoljub Mihailovic. With this crime too, there existed a clear genocidal intention to destroy the Muslims as such." Dedijer wrote further that Adolf Hitler's methods "were proclaimed publicly in Mein Kampf, and there is no doubt that they influenced the concept of genocide in the movement of Draza Mihailovic." (For those who don't know, Mihailovic was the Chetnik leader). Dedijer wrote this in the introduction to his book, 'Genocide against the Muslims" (Svjetlost, Sarajevo, 1990, p. xx, xxii), co-edited with another prominent Yugoslav expert on the Ustashe, Antun Miletic. So by Rory's logic, Dedijer and Miletic must also be guilty of "whitewashing the Ustashe".

4) Ironically, having accused me of "whitewashing the Ustashe", Rory then goes on to argue that my "blanket condemnation of all Chetniks as nazi-collaborationists says rather more about you than it does about the historical record." Yet the Nazi-collaborationist character of the Chetnik movement has long since been established by historians such as Jozo Tomasevich, who by the way supported the view that Chetnik atrocities against Muslims and Croats were essentially equivalent to Ustasha atrocities against Serbs. Well, I'm sure that the 8,000 Muslim civilians - women, children and old people - slaughtered by the Chetniks in the Foca massacre of 1943, would have been gratified to learn of Rory's fine moral gradations, denoting their suffering as less real than that of the Ustashe's victims. Rory claims further that the "crimes of some Chetnik groups" were "deplorable". Note that he says "some Chetnik groups"; presumably, he thinks the crimes of other Chetnik groups were less "deplorable". Deplorable ! What Dedijer called "genocide", Rory calls "deplorable" !

So it turns out that Rory 1) Defends the Chetniks from the claim that they were Nazi-collaborationist, and 2) defends them from the charge that their crimes were equivalent to those of the Ustashe. No, I don't think I am being defamatory when I say that Rory is guilty of whitewashing Serb Nazi-collaborators.

5) Finally, Rory accuses me of being a "neocon", but then objects that I am "labelling people" when I say that I would rather be a neocon than a neo-Stalinist. Let's just get this straight: Rory is "labelling me" as a "neocon", and I am "labelling myself" as someone who would rather be a neocon than a neo-Stalinist, or a Chetnik, or a genocide-denier. This, I think, is uncontroversial.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

As Rory Yeomans seems to have fled the discussion now that his cover is blown, and since the last part of this discussion focussed on allegations of "defamation" and "labelling", I'm going to finish by posting this link to another blog discussion in which he participated. It makes for alternately amusing and shocking reading.

Mea culpa - I'm sometimes guilty of an aggressive polemical style, but always directed against political positions with which I disagree. I draw the line at snide remarks about people's physical appearance or sexuality. Yet this is precisely what Yeomans does, in relation to two of our best and most eminent regional specialists.

This would not be significant, were it not for the fact that Yeomans is himself a professional academic, employed, at least until recently, by the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, the UK's best known university specialising in the field. This kind of behaviour is not one that should be tolerated within the academic community.

Dan Albihari said...
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Dan Albihari said...
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Eric Gordy said...

I'm going to stay out of the exchange on Cetnici, Ustase and other beasts, except to suggest to Rory that now that we know who you are, maybe it would be a good idea to retire the "Dan" character. I can't get on some sort of preacher's platform about anonymity and pseudonyms in general, but it is probably the case that the quality of a debate is enhanced by people taking the risk of standing with their names behind their ideas.

On Kusturica, there was a small exchange on him earlier on this blog, which might be a little bit useful:


I'm not sure that I have a lot to add to what I said then, as I am not really a film critic. It might be worthwhile to look up some pieces that Ana Devic and Marko Zivkovic wrote on him (sorry I dont have citations).

Marko Attila Hoare said...

Correction: In one of my posts above, I referred to Branko Mamula as a general; he is in fact an admiral (retd).

Alan Kocevic said...

Excellent refutation of the despicable war crime denial over Bosnia Eric. I am glad that there are people out there who fight for the truth.
I would appreciate some feedback on my article Proving Genocide in Bosnia, which can be found here: genocideinbosnia.blogspot.com

Thanks once again.

Eric Gordy said...

The posts by one of the participants in this exchange have been removed. This was done at that person's request.

Anonymous said...

Thanks from Sarajevo for revealing their lies. =)