Welcome to the archive!

This should be cause for long lines forming on a certain street. The Serbian security services are delivering to the state archive 30.000 pages of documents prepared by the security services between 1956 and 1975 which give their reports on about 1000 people who, according to the government's announcement "were acting from the positions of anarcholiberalism, liberalism and bureaucratic etatism." Even if you do not think that people were following you between 1956 and 1975, have a look at the archive site linked above, they have a nice selection of scanned documents on display.

Is it true, does Belgrade rock?

I have always said so, but now Seth Sherwood, writing in the Newspaper of Record, shows people how to find the answer for themselves. The prize quotation comes from Anton:

On stage, the Partibrejkers tear through a succession of Stooges-meets-Kiss anthems while the throng pumps its fists and yells "Oh, Yeah!" Having endured more than two decades of the vicissitudes of their homeland - the post-Tito comedown, the wars of the 1990's, the economic and political uncertainty under the new leaders - the Partibrejkers are perhaps one more inspiring symbol of Belgraders' endurance. "When you have a strong link to the source of life," the group's guitarist, Nebojsa Antonijevic, said before the show, referring to his passion for music, "the outer situation can't deter you."
I think this is the first big travel feature on the town that NYT has done in my memory. Too bad he gives away the locations of my favorite restaurants.

Update: La Lara isn't sure whether it matters what rocks or not.


Friday random ten, on this random Friday

Today will be a "light posting" day. There is a pile of papers to be graded which I have managed to avoid for longer than I should have, and my brilliant students are coming for lunch. Also, it has been raining for a week and the dog needs a bath. Otherwise, you know the Friday Random Ten deal: open your mp3 player, hit the random button, and share what comes up.

David Bowie -- The man who sold the world
I run hot and cold on whether I still like this fellow, but you have to agree that he is one of the precious few rokenrol idols from his generation who has maintained a shred of dignity.

Groucho Marx -- Hooray for Captain Spaulding
One of Azra's favorites! Insert your favorite Marx joke in this spot.

Električni orgazam -- Pobuna
In 1996 they released a live acoustic "greatest hits" album, which was both preceded and followed by undistinguished periods. This one makes me feel like I am in Belgrade in a club I was obviously never in.

Atheist rap -- Blu Trabant
The Balkans were just about to become competitive with SoCal in the "car song" market. There were already lots of train songs.

Bran Van 3000 -- Drinking in LA
Is this going to be the only song on the list that gets somewhere near the category of commercial hit? Somebody call Albert O. Hirschmann!

The Bangles -- September gurlz
I almost always enjoy cover versions, and do always enjoy Big Star. But if they were going to make the cover identical in every way except for changing the genders, wouldn't it have made sense to do "September Boys"?

The legendary Jim Ruiz band -- My bloody Yugo
It's one of those eternal questions, "who will drive my Yugo when I die?"

Fabiana Cantilo -- Mi enfermedad
She was the vocalist for Los Twist, you know! Everybody needs to listen to a lot more Argentine pop.

Cornershop -- Good to be on the road back home
This is a country and western song, isn't it? This is another group I sometimes love, and am sometimes annoyed by their cleverness. A syndrome?

Prljavo kazalište -- Djevojke bi
A sentimental attachment. I listened to a tape of the great groups of this period, and have been involved with that part of the world ever since. Who knew?
A very fine Friday and weekend to everybody.

Great moments in human intelligence

Where else would anybody have found this description of the new system for coordination of US intelligence services but in the San Jose Mercury-News? With fiendish cleverness named the "National Clandestine Service," it will be overseen by the director of the CIA but:
"the day-to-day operations of the clandestine service will be handled by an undercover officer. That officer publicly is referred to simply as 'Jose'."
Don't give away all of your secrets at once, though.


Your daily starlet update

I was getting worried for a moment there after Index.hr went two straight days with no news items about Keira Knightley on their front page. Now they seem to have got their rhythm back, though.

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.


After the Nobel committee has just reaffirmed that it intends not to make political statements through its decisions and wants to stay out of fads and fashions, it has now announced that this year's prize will go to Harold Pinter, no doubt well-known to readers of this blog as an indefatigable freedom fighter (the freedom of Slobodan Milosevic, that is). Go figure.

Football news from all over

Serbia and Montenegro will have a place in the FIFA World Cup finals after their 1:0 win against Bosnia and Hercegovina, thanks to a goal by Mateja Kežman. "Incidents" were expected and the fans of the visiting team were heavily guarded. In the end, seventeen people were injured during the match, mostly by flying objects thrown at them. But navijači are a unique group and their behavior is not, thankfully, the model for everybody else. The journalists from SCG and BiH played a friendly match, which the BiH journalists won 6:4. Then both teams went to a restaurant, where they partied and agreed on further cooperation.


At the sound of the tone

Darko pretty much captures every customer's perception of dealing with the Verizon corporation. Add to that the piling on of charges which nobody can interpret, and continuing to put "long distance" charges on services that cost nobody a thing except the hapless customer. We considered not even bothering to get a telephone when we moved to our new place two years ago. But of course, the reason the phone company has customers at all is lack of choice -- we had to have a phone line to get DSL service, which we had to get to do our work at home (which we have to do for many reasons). But no longer: now we have switched the DSL to "dedicated line" service (also called "naked DSL," but if you do not believe that I am fully dressed as I write this just check the Boston weather report). Our VOIP phone works over it, so no dealing with the phone company at all. Our former phone number is now a mobile phone, so all those people who have the old number can still reach us. I just heard a story on NPR detailing why two million users have done the same. It takes some doing to wear down a lifetime of loyalty to the phone company, but it looks like inaccessibility, indifference, and exploitation can compensate for a whole lot of regulatory protection.

Georgia on my mind

The first phase of a new project by University of Pittsburgh librarians Susan Corbesero, Helena Goscilo, and
Petre Petrov is now up. Stalinka will be an online collection of photos and documents related to the life of Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili, known to y'all and me as Stalin. The photos (370 of them) are up, and texts will come soon. They warn that their photos are protected by copyright, so I'll illustrate this post with a photo of F. Murray Abraham as Stalin, with Judy Davis in the wry 1996 film Children of the Revolution.

Headline of the day

** Smurfs 'bombed' in UN ad campaign **
UN child agency Unicef launches an ad campaign in which cartoon legends the Smurfs are blown away by an air strike.

Check the story here.

What I found out while away...

Insight #1: "The problem with the city of Sarajevo... well, it's a town!" (My friend K when asked about whether he enjoyed living there.)

Insight #2: Every journalist can be bought. EVERY SINGLE ONE. OK, maybe not old Commie-types who are genuinely uninterested in money (I know all two of them). But it was extremely dispiriting to see, close up, how easily you can buy some ad space (otherwise known as "reporting") in Dani, for example, or how people I used to respect would sell themselves for a few hundred bucks (which they ended up not getting, he he).

#1 plus #2: Not much reason for hope there.


SOAP gets in your eyes

The newest claimant to showering with international recognition in Kosovo is the mysteriously fresh-smelling Serbian Antiterrorist Liberation Movement, or SOAP. Mikan Velinović, who claims to be the commander of the group, is a former wrestler and composer of aphorisms, and briefly ran a private courier service for the ICTY indictee Nebojša Pavković. He claims that the group has 7500 members, that they are unarmed, and that, depending on when you ask him, they are either holding two villages under seige or not. Or else that the movement is of a "humanitarian character." Thanks to AR for the tip.

Update: Oh dear, there's more. Channeling the spirit of Dr Bronner, Mikan Velinović frothed to an interviewer in November that "no normal person can be against SOAP, least of all the US president George Bush." Following the article is a somewhat, erm, spirited discussion of the group's implications, courtesy of your national broadcaster RTS.

Reflections on transitional justice

Helena Cobban, Jonathan Edelstein and Brandon Hamber have launched a new blog, at once discussion forum and resource clearinghouse, on transitional justice. Pay a visit to Transitional Justice Forum to appreciate or join in. The goal is not simply to provide information and reflection on ongoing events (although they certainly do that), but also to interrogate the meanings of justice and the adequacy of institutional mechanisms, as proposed in a highlight post by Jonathan Edelstein. They are also developing a bibliography of published articles available in full-text, small for now but awaiting your additions.

UNICEF's scorched Smurf policy

The advertisement on Belgian television (image courtesy of Večernji list) was meant to raise funds for a UNICEF program for child soldiers in Burundi. It began with an idyllic scene of the popular childrens' animated characters the Smurfs in their village. And it continued with a surprise air raid on the village leaving destruction, death, and an orphaned Smurf child. Belgian UNICEF spokesperson Philippe Henon told media that the purpose of the campaign was to shock viewers and provoke a reaction. No doubt it succeeded in that, but any advertiser will tell you that getting the attention of viewers is only the first job in getting a message across.

The best-advertised plans...

Remember Boris Mikšić? He is the wealthy and once well-connected military contractor who was not elected president of Croatia (he won "morally," he says, but we all know that is no way to get into political office), and subsequently was not elected mayor of Zagreb, but did succeed in getting removed as honorary consul in St. Paul, Minnesota. Now, it seems, he is also not buying the OTV television network. Which is not preventing him from saying that he is. Which the staff of OTV deny.