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.
DENIAL BASED ON CONTEXT
✯ 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.
DENIAL BASED ON PRESUMPTIVE EQUIVALENCE
✯ 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.
DENIAL BASED ON INCOMPLETE INFORMATION
✯ 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.
DENIAL BASED ON ANTICIPATED CONSEQUENCES OF RECOGNITION
✯ 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.
DENIAL BASED ON ATTRIBUTION OF MOTIVATION
✯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.