I found this interesting piece over Oliver Kamn. Oliver Kamn fisked Chomsky (and the Guardian) over his position in relation to the genocide in Bosnia. We all know about Chomsky infamous comment on the Cambodia Killing Field. Apparently he is taking a similar position with the genocide in Bosnia. And similar to the Killing Field comment, Chomsky said something outrageous and later denied ever saying it or claim that it was taken out of context. Noam Chomsky granted an interview to The Guardian last October and the interviewer supposedly asked some tought indirect questions about the masacre at Srebrenica.
Q: Do you regret supporting those who say the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated?A: My only regret is that I didn't do it strongly enough.
It is true that the above question- in exact wording- was never asked; and Chomsky never gave the answer - in exact wording. Therefore Chomsky is entitled to an apology and a correction from The Guardian on this specific fact. But Chomsky did indirectly support the position that Srebrenicia was not a masacre and there was no genocide in Bosnia. And as a public intellectual, he must be held responsible.
Oliver gave the evidence of Chomsky position in his piece and I strongly recommend readers to read the whole thing. It is long and laborious but worthy of your time. The summary of Oliver's article is that Chomsky by supporting Diana Johnstone's position is himself a genocide denier.
I will not address Chomsky sin which is merely an echo of Oliver Kamn's position. However I wish to address the original position of Dianna Johnstone which Chomsky supports. Dianna Johnston wrote "Fools' Crusade: Yugoslavia, Nato, and Western Delusions" which basically denies that there was a genocidal campaign in the Former Yugoslavia and it is minor in comparision to crimes commited by the US internationally. Of course, wacko leftist accusing the US of war crimes is not noteworthy in itself so I will not address that particular argument.
But I have been to Bosnia and am intimately familiar with that civil war. And I think it is important to debunk the Johnstone argument - not for the sake of the US but for the sake of the victims of that genocide. Oliver Kamn did a nice job summarizing Johnstone's thesis and in this post I will refute her argument. I am doing it in the names of the murdered, the raped, and the survivors. Oliver Kamn:
To summarise, this is what Johnstone argues: that there is “a difficulty in knowing the truth about Srebrenica”. This is partly because “uncertainty has persisted concerning the actual number of people killed, the circumstances and motives involved and the political significance of the real or assumed killing that took place.” Johnstone urges, therefore, that “a number of factors should be taken into account”.These are:
1. The safe areas (including Srebrenica) were not demilitarised, but “served as Muslim military bases … safe bases from which to attack the Serbs”, and UN-protected food shipments were “suspected - correctly” by the Serbs of acting as a front for the shipment of weapons. The UN announcement of the demilitarisation of Srebrenica was “deceptive”.2. The Muslim forces in Srebrenica were led by one Naser Oric who “had carried out murderous raids against nearby Serb villages”. Oric’s Muslim fighters beheaded the bodies of Serbs, reminding Serbs of the Ottoman occupation.3. The Bosnian Muslim government pulled Oric’s men out of the enclave “deliberately leaving the enclave undefended”. This alleged fact “has aroused strong suspicion of a calculated sacrifice”. In addition, a former member of the Bosnian parliament has “insisted that many more Srebrenicans had survived than were acknowledged”.4. The US used the “inevitable failure” of the UN safe area concept as a way of getting NATO to supplant the United Nations. “The UNPROFOR mission was a planned failure … used to discredit the whole tradition of neutral diplomacy” and colluded in by “Washington’s choice as Secretary General, Kofi Annan…”5. “The number of Muslims killed or missing after the fall of Srebrenica is uncertain and more effort has been made to inflate the figures than to identify and count the real victims”. The original 8,000 figure was made up of 3,000 reported detainees and 5,000 who fled, of whom, according to one newspaper report, 3-4,000 had now turned up. Six years later “ICTY forensic teams had exhumed 2,361 bodies in the region and identified fewer than 50 … some of the bodies were certainly of Serbs as well as of Muslims”. Johnstone concludes that there is “no clear way to account for the fate of all the Muslim men reported missing in Srebrenica”, not least because some of the prisoners “were released in exchanges” or “even dispersed abroad”.6. “The original accusation against the Bosnian Serbs was politically motivated.” Johnstone writes that “The accusation of a ‘Srebrenica massacre’ [note, these are Johnstone’s quotation marks] was used by the Clinton administration” to distract attention from Croat activities in the Krajina region, and on to “Serb misdeeds”. A presentation by Madeleine Albright of satellite photographs showing possibly massacre burial sites “successfully diverted attention” at the UN from the Croatian offensive against the Serbs. The photos themselves are problematic because “If … the massacres took place on the scale alleged, why were no photos displayed showing the massacres?”
7. “Insofar as Muslims were actually executed [note the use of the quasi-judicial word ‘executed’ rather than ‘murdered’ or even ‘killed’ here] following the fall of Srebrenica, such crimes bear all the signs of spontaneous acts of revenge rather than a project of ‘genocide’”. This is the context in which Johnstone claims that the separation of men of military age from women and children makes one thing obvious, “one does not commit ‘genocide’ by sparing women and children”. Johnstone claims that the separation actually happened “partly because the Serbs could exchange” Serb and Muslim POWs and partly because the Serbs were looking for Oric’s notorious killers. The rapid fall of the enclave “presented the Serbs with an opportunity to exact revenge”. Furthermore “some observers” think that the whole thing “was a ‘trap’ for the Serbs who stupidly fell into it.” In fact “one man who wanted to keep Bosnian Serb forces away from Srebrenica was Slobodan Milosevic”. He may have anticipated that “the accusation of ‘genocide’ in Srebrenica was used to construct the presumption that Milosevic was plotting to commit genocide in Kosovo.”
On point one and two, it has some kernels of truth but much more factual errors. There are still Muslim (Bosniaks) fighters within Srebrenicia proper - to include Naser Oric and his men - but the number is insignificant because the bulk of Bosniak fighters were defending Sarajevo. Srebrenicia location is deep within Serb controlled territory. I includes a map to familiar readers with the locations in this article. The greenline is the current border that divide Bosnia into The Federation and Republika Sprska. It was also the front line around the time of the fall of Srebrenica. The red lines are the main roads.
By the time of the seige of Srebrenica, the combined Serbian Army (JNA) and the Bosnian Serbs (VRS) forces already took Zvonik, a Muslim majority town north of Srebrenica and emptied it of all Muslims. Many of the refugee fled to Srebrenica, increased it population by at least five times. The JNA-VRS forces pushed further south and completely surrounded Srebrenica. Srebrenica was completely isolated and if one looks at the map, it is very far from the front line to be a viable base for launching attacks against the Serbs. Supplying in the city is virtually impossible without going through Serbs controlled checkpoint. The only way to avoid the checkpoints was on foot through the mountain. Having been there, I can tell you that the mountain in Bosnia is tough terrain to tranverse - one has to be in very good shape and if one carry light load. Johnstone's idea that the city was a forward base is absurd.
There is no denial that Naser Oric is a war criminal. I have personally met Naser Oric when I was a peacekeeper in Bosnia (2000) and my impression of him was negative. He is a typical criminal scumbag that profit from war. He was a sleazy night club owner in Tuzla at the time. When he was indicted, we came close to capturing him but he managed to evade.
But I wonder what Johnstone point in mentioning Naser Oric. Naser Oric role in the Srebrenica event was a negative one but irrelevant to the later masacre. Naser and his men, during the seige, went outside the city to forage for food and supply. In the process, they indiscriminately killed Serbs who live in the outskirt of the city. Robbery was his main motive. And as the Serbs were closing in the city, Naser and his men left in helicopter. Is Johnstone implying that Naser action justify the masacre later on by Serbs? According Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, who is no friend of Naser Oric, submitted a document to the UN that Naser Oric killed 371 Serbs during his raids (from 1993 - 1995). War crime no doubt; and he is being tried for it. But that fact bear no relevancy on the later masacre unless if Johnstone argue that it was spontaneous revenge - unqualified as premeditated and planned masacre.
Which she did in this article at the International Action Center (a far left center found by Ramsey Clark), which seems to be the summarized version of her book:
When the Bosnian Serb forces captured the town on July 11, 2005, civilians were clamoring to leave the enclave, understandably enough, since there was virtually no normal economic life there. Much has been made of the fact that Serb forces separated the population, providing buses for women, children and the infirm to take them to Tuzla, while detaining the men. In light of all that preceded, the reason for this separation is obvious: the Bosnian Serbs were looking for the perpetrators of raids on Serb villages, in order to take revenge.
However, only a relatively small number of Muslim men were detained at that point, and some of them are known to have survived and eventually been released in exchange for Serb prisoners. When the Serb forces entered the town from the south, thousands of Muslim soldiers, in disarray because of the absence of commanding officers, fled northwards, through wild wooded hills toward Tuzla. It is clear enough that they fled because they feared exactly what everyone aware of the situation dreaded: that Serb soldiers would take vengeance on the men they considered guilty of murdering Serb civilians and prisoners.
First of all, the revenge explanation does hold water. There was other masacres long before Srebrenica. There is a hotel in Zvornik that we nicknames "Airbone Hotel." When the Serbs took Zvornik, they took Muslims to a hotel on the Drina (the river that divides Bosnia and Serbia), killed them and threw their bodies into river - hence the nickname. There were so many bodies that the hydroelectric damn downstream was clogged. The refugees at Srebrenica include many survivors of Zvornik.
Johnstone assertion that Muslims men fled north toward Tuzla is absurd. It would normally took us most of the day to travel from Tuzla to Srebrenica in humvee using the main road. It would be almost impossible to travel from Srebrenica to Tuzla on foot while avoiding the main road. The numerous mountains in between make it physically impossible.
Johnstone had also never visited the mass grave in Bosnia. I went to many of them and they turned my stomach. So far more than 5,000 remains were recovered in and around Srebrenica and new ones are being found. It is a higher rate of recover than most masacres in the past suggesting the number maybe much higher than 8,000 originally estimated.
Throughout her book, Johnstone deliberately avoids mentioning the rapes that occured after the fall of Srebrenica. Beside seperating the men and young boy to be massacred, the Serbs raped many women and young girls as a form of intimidation.
Beside the factual errors on the Srebrenica Masacre, Johnstone has nothing to add to the topic other than crazy conspiracy theory. The fact that Croats and Bosniaks also commited war crimes is not disputed by anyone. It does not change the fact that the Serbs were the most prolific killers in the war because they were most well equiped. It further does not change that Srebrenica Masacre in 1995 was the worst masacre in Europe since World War Two. Dianna Johnstone book has less to do with Bosnia than with America. If the US did not intervened in that conflict, Johnstone would have no problem acknowleding the masacre. I am used to the nutty Leftist bashing the US. We can take the abuse. But it sadden me to see victims of genocide being denied of their stories in the process.