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On the day Mladic has been arrested May 26, 2011

Posted by Tomboktu in Human Rights, racism.
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There has been plenty of commentary on the significance of the arrest today in Vojvodina of General Ratko Mladic. I first read the following three comments in 1998, when Mark Danner first published them in the New York Review of Book. They still haunt.

When the truck stopped, we immediately heard shooting outside; stones were bouncing off the [truck's] tarpaulin. The Cetniks told us to get out, five at a time. I was in the middle of the group, and the men in the front didn’t want to get out. They were terrified, they started pulling back. But we had no choice, and when it was my turn to get out with five others, I saw dead bodies everywhere…. A Cetnik said, “Come on [Turk], find some space.”… They ordered us to lie down, and as I threw myself on the ground, I heard gunfire. I was hit in my right arm and three bullets went through the right side of my torso.

We came near to what I saw through my right eye was a wooded area. They took us off the truck in twos and led us out to some kind of meadow. People started taking off blindfolds and yelling in fear because the meadow was littered with corpses. I was put in the front row, but I fell over to the left before the first shots were fired so that bodies fell on top of me….

About an hour later, I Iooked up and saw dead bodies everywhere. They were bringing in more trucks with more people to be executed. After a bulldozer driver walked away, I crawled over dead bodies and into the forest.

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Comments»

1. Phil - May 27, 2011

Thanks for this. We should not forget. (And even if it’s proved some day that we’ve ignored or overlooked or forgotten crimes as bad as this, this will still be what it was.)

2. Jim Monaghan - May 27, 2011

Let us not forget those who made excuses on the Irish Left.

Mark P - May 27, 2011

Who “made excuses”?

John Doyle - May 27, 2011

+1

EWI - May 27, 2011

I do recall UK pro-Serb sympathies at the time (likewise the Germans with the Croats).

Joe - May 27, 2011

Slobodan Milosevic’s party won an election in Serbia sometime in the early to mid 90s. There were international observers of the election process. IIRC, one of them was John Jefferies of the WP in Cork. I remember him being interviewed on the telly.
Don’t know did the WP have fraternal links with Milosevic’s party or what was their view on the Bosnian war?

EamonnCork - May 27, 2011

The Workers Party signed a statement of solidarity with Milosevic at the congress of communist and workers parties in 2005, calling for his release, saying that he was being prosecuted at The Hague because he was the only world leader who had resisted NATO aggression and had defended the independence of Yugoslavia.

EamonnCork - May 27, 2011

John Jefferies was involved in the Irish wing of the Campaign To Defend Slobodan Milosevic whose website links to an article suggesting there was no massacre at Srebenica at all, and that all the victims had died in fighting with the Serbs.

WorldbyStorm - May 27, 2011

When I was in DL interestingly enough there seemed to be some pro-Serbian sentiment on the part of some members I knew. On the other hand there was also a countervailing tendency.

3. Captain Rock - May 27, 2011

And still do.

4. Jim Monaghan - May 27, 2011
5. LeftAtTheCross - May 27, 2011

It puts the NI situation in perspective, as national questions go people in this part of the world have it easy by comparison.

6. Chet Carter - May 28, 2011

As far as I remember the Living Marxism crowd in London were avid supporters of Milosevics campaign of genocide. But I didn’t know that there was an equivalent campaign in Ireland.

Galatican - May 28, 2011

that’s because there wasn’t. A signature on a bloc resolution at a communist conference nine years after the war, and one guy in Cork writing on the internet – sackcloth and ashes for the Irish left all right.

Galatican - May 28, 2011

I should add that it is easy to see how a signature on a conference resolution and one guy writing on the internet can be construed as a ‘movement’ or a ‘campaign’ within Ireland as it’s about the level of activity of the self-appointed vanguards of the irish working class.

WorldbyStorm - May 28, 2011

I’m sort of with NollaigO in the idea that even with LM and others it was never a support for genocide as a misinterpretation (sometimes appearing willful) as to what was taking place.

But Galactican, surely you bury the Irish left in an attempt to exculpate it? No?

Galatican - May 28, 2011

The key word here, WBS, is ‘self-appointed’.

did the Irish trade union movement or the main Irish left parties support Milosevic? No.

to the ‘self-appointed’ saviours, one key and a keyboard IS a vanguard.

Galatican - May 28, 2011

[Typo. key = guy]

WorldbyStorm - May 28, 2011

Fair point.

EamonnCork - May 28, 2011

I agree with Galactican as regards the Irish left in general but I just posted that to show that Jim’s comment does have a basis in fact and he’s not making it up. Internationally, Harold Pinter and Noam Chomsky were among those who said that the the Serbs had got a bum rap, that Milosevic shouldn’t have been tried and that Srebenica was exaggerated. You can agree or disagree with this but it happened and those arguments weren’t the preserve of a small lunatic fringe. I suspect Mladic won’t be getting the same level of support.

Galatican - May 28, 2011

“those arguments weren’t the preserve of a small lunatic fringe”

Well in Ireland they seem to be because all you’ve posted here as evidence to support Jim’s contention is the example of ONE person.

Any resolutions passed by trade unions backing Milosevic? No.

Any resolutions passed by the main left political organisations backing Milosevic? No.

So. The mainstream weren’t part of it, and the majority of the radical left wasn’t part of it either.

Sounds pretty fringe to me.

However, as soon as Chomsky takes out Irish citizenship, then you can label him as part of the Irish Left – and if Pinter’s family take out retroactive citizenship, ditto.

Until then, unless yourself or Jim can show that the level of support for Milosevic surpassed the contents of a hatchback, I’m going to take it as a fringe stance.

WorldbyStorm - May 28, 2011

There’s a lot in what you say. But on the other hand one thing that struck me at the time, and again this is from direct experience in DL, and more widely afield, is how open some were to the apologias for Serbian and Serbian proxies actions. That’s less tangible than resolutions [though the latter is not necessarily the only or best metric as to the temperature of the left, or right or centre] but having been there I was surprised by its existence at all. And it most certainly wasn’t one guy, at a keyboard or not.

Galatican - May 28, 2011

Well how many were apologists for serbian atrocities? Five? Ten? Twenty?

DL did not apologise for serbian atrocities, nor was there ANY organised Irish left campaign to give support to the Serbians. This is a fantasy of Jim Monaghan.

Maybe you just hung around with people with right-wing nationalist views.

Mind you, interesting how the sectarianism comes out on this site. First Jim Monaghan talking about how ‘elements’ of the Irish left have a case to answer with regard to support for serbian massacres – even though there is no evidence for same outside of pub talk – and then Mark P shows up with his Parker and no pasaran badges to tell us that, actually, we need to define exactly what ‘the Irish left’ is before we can talk about the non-existent support for serbian massacres expressed by same.

We still need to define the irish left in order to discuss something that does not exist.

There you go. That’s the brains we’re dealing with here. White rabbits from Jim Monaghan and red baits from Mark P.

Mark P - May 28, 2011

Reading comprehension obviously isn’t a strong point with you any more than consistency is.

No doubt you can point out precisely where I argued that “we need to define exactly what ‘the Irish left’ is before we can talk about the non-existent support for serbian massacres expressed by same”? Or rather, you can’t, because you just made that up.

What I did argue, specifically with reference to the drivel you’ve been posting, is that you are confused about what the Irish left is. There is no particular connection between your confusion on this score and your confusion or otherwise on any other issue. That said, we can probably assume that anyone who thinks that the Irish Labour Party is left wing is unlikely to be one of the great political analysts of our time.

NollaigO - May 28, 2011

I am/was no supporter of LM but I don’t think they supported campaigns of genocide.
IIRC, they argued that it was wrong to accuse the Serbs of genocide, a view that is laughably wrong but very different from avidly supporting genocide.

EamonnCork - May 28, 2011

What’s this ‘as soon as Chomsky takes out Irish citizenship’ shite. The word ‘internationally’ at the start of the sentence mentioning him might have been a clue that I wasn’t talking about him in the context of the Irish left. Though in any event this thread has degenerated into a fairly depressing scrap. Sammy Wilson. Hurray. Why not call him the Sammy Nelson of the Irish Left or the Mari Wilson or the Sam Gamgee or the Bruce Willis for all the sense it makes.

7. Galatican - May 28, 2011

Sorry about the number of comments, but just on that resolution regarding Milosevic.

It’s my understanding that similar resolutions / stances are being held today regarding NATO and Gadaffi.

http://www.socialistpartyni.net/elections/south-belfast/571-stop-the-bombing-of-libya

The idea that the Irish socialist party is a supporter of Gadaffi is laughable of course, but it wouldn’t take much imagination to cut and paste it as such.

Mark P - May 28, 2011

The Irish left was, of course, opposed to NATO intervention in Yugoslavia too. Which also didn’t mean that they gave support to the Serbs.

There seems to be a certain amount of confusion in this discussion about who and what the “Irish left” is. Galatian seems to be using the term to mean Labour and Sinn Fein, which on the latter score is confusion and on the former an outright abuse of language. Sinn Fein, as I understand it, were opposed to NATO intervention in Yugoslavia while Labour, I suspect, supported it.

Galatican - May 28, 2011

The sectarian rises from his slumber.

Galatican - May 28, 2011

Mark P – the Sammy Wilson of Irish message boards.

ejhorton - May 28, 2011

Don’t be silly.

Mark P - May 28, 2011

I look considerably better naked than Sammy Wilson, which isn’t, I have to admit, necessarily much to boast about.

There’s something rather amusing about being called a “sectarian” by someone who from his opening post in this thread has been consistently abusive towards actual left organisations, but consistency has never been a strong point for either Labour or Sinn Fein supporters.

WorldbyStorm - May 28, 2011

Galactican, it’s a little hard to take all your critique seriously given how increasingly negative your contributions appear to be.

8. dmfod - May 28, 2011

There’s an implicit assumption above that any criticism of the mainstream focus on exclusively demonising the Serbs as a whole (as opposed to any other actors in the conflict) and its use as a pretext for military intervention was the same thing as supporting Milosevic or supporting genocide. That is nonsense.

Chomsky’s argument related to the selective, political use of the term ‘genocide’ to shut down debate around self-interested military interventions in its name, while other massacres & wars of equal seriousness are not labelled genocide when no such self-interest exists.

EamonnCork - May 28, 2011

Not my intention to imply that anyone was supporting genocide. I think there was a bit more to Chomsky’s problem with the interventions in the Balkans than a semantic tussle about the use of the word ‘genocide.’ He seemed to me to be more bothered about what he saw as the heavy handed use of NATO power, a concern which seemed to drive the arguments of those who felt the Serbs were getting a raw deal.

WorldbyStorm - May 28, 2011

I’m always a bit dubious about the line ‘look over there, that’s as bad or worse’…

There were basic geopolitical reasons why Serbia would weigh more heavily upon Europe than events outside of Europe.

This doesn’t mean that Europe or the EU or NATO had clean hands, simply that this was an instance where self-interest, a degree of altruism and proximity coincided.

L.O.L. - May 29, 2011

Yes, as WorldByStorm points out it was a great thing that “the Serbs” were bombed in order to prevent them committing atrocities. Well done the Irish Left.

WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2011

Is that what I pointed out?

9. Chet Carter - May 29, 2011

Ouch, apologies to all for starting this little storm. As far as I’m concerned the Living Marxism grouplet should not even be considered left wing. I see them more as the revolutionary vanguard for extreme neo liberalism. Some of their members
now make a living by providing provocative columns for the Daily Mail.

But being based in London I don’t have a feel for any inroads they ever made in Ireland. I know they were very hostile to the IRA entering into peace negotiations with the British government. These middle class polytechnic lecturers – very hardcore when it comes to revolution and violence.

Michael Carley - May 29, 2011

If we’re talking about those who were very hardcore when it comes to revolution and violence, the greatest example was the IRA calling the bluff of People’s Democracy.

Jim Monaghan - May 29, 2011

A touch nasty.Mick Farrell was on hunger strike for political status. So was Canavan. O’Hare and McAnulty were in prison. I would guess that PD had a spectrum of bravery like other orgs. Cannot speak for others but I was for a ceasefire early on as I saw no future in the armed struggle.A debate for another place.
Try and debate the politics. What were people calling for.

L.O.L. - May 29, 2011

This is correct.

The True Left Wing is that which espouses the bombing of civilians and civilian infrastructure. Sometimes it is necessary for these True Left Wingers to use faked pictures of concentration camps in order to excite themselves into a bombing frenzy.

Keep flying the freak flag Brother Chet.

WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2011

Faked?

L.O.L. - May 29, 2011

@World By Storm.

Yes, faked. It’s nice to see you and your blog contributors sharing in the left-liberal euphoria and doing their bit to spread the propaganda. Great to see such robust support for imperialist splattering of the bad people’s children too. Very, very “True Left Wing”. Again, congratulations.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qP6mPW2ic8&w=425&h=349%5D

WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2011

Thanks.

Usually I’d be a bit irritated at being told I and the CLR are imperialist supporters, but I’ll take that as a compliment when given by concentration camp deniers.

L.O.L. - May 29, 2011

@ WorldByStorm.

Excellent. I understood exactly what you were saying. For a moment I was afraid that I had been unfair to you.

Carry on “True Left Winger” with spreading the lies and propaganda and supporting the massacre of innocent Serbs, ya oul humanitarian ya.

WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2011

Apologies LOL I clearly misunderstood the rules here, only you are allowed to make snide and offensive comments here.

L.O.L. - May 29, 2011

Oh, not at all WbS. It’s your blog after all. And you can continue to host comments from contributors that repeat [EDIT BY WORLDBYSTORM - THE CLR HASN"T GOT DEEP POCKETS. I'M REMOVING THIS SENTENCE BECAUSE OF POTENTIAL LEGAL IMPLICATIONS]. You can continue to host comments from e.g. Chet that repeat the falsehood that criticism of the bombing of Serbian civilians with clusterbombs is equivalent to defending Serbian atrocities.

It’s a fascinating little recapitulation of the current round of “humanitarian interventions”. Carry on.

WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2011

You know, my problem with all this is not that I’m anti-Serb or God forbid anti-Yugoslavia. To me the downfall of Yugoslavia was a greater loss than the USSR because it seems to me that there were interesting experimentation going on in the former as regards socialism and socialist approaches. And I feel that Serbians and in some respects Serbia got a raw deal in many ways post Milosevic (and Serbians got a pretty raw deal under Milosevic).

But on an issue like the concentration camps or indeed atrocities, in a situation where I have no particular sympathies for any of the post-Yugoslav states – or if I do my particular sympathies would be Serbia and Bosnia above all others, it seems hard to argue other that Trnopolje was a camp that by the descriptions and definitions provided to the UN and other bodies seems to me to fulfill the criteria of being a concentration camp even if it apparently wasn’t as bad as Omarska et al.

And I don’t see any problem at all in the images of Alic.

As for humanitarian intervention, I personally haven’t actually made any comment on any of this in relation to Bosnia on this thread [indeed above I made a point long before your arrival that I didn't think LM's or others analyses were based on supporting genocide]. And I’m certainly not going to censor comments by others on this topic one way or another once they’re made within the guidelines of moderation for this site. Indeed the only person who could be said to be coming close to breaching those guidelines is you.

Mark P - May 29, 2011

Given that the allegations L.O.L. is repeating were the subject of a successful and high profile libel claim, it might be prudent to take them down.

L.O.L. - May 29, 2011

“on an issue like the concentration camps or indeed atrocities, in a situation where I have no particular sympathies for any of the post-Yugoslav states – or if I do my particular sympathies would be Serbia and Bosnia above all others, it seems hard to argue other that Trnopolje was a camp that by the descriptions and definitions provided to the UN and other bodies seems to me to fulfill the criteria of being a concentration camp even if it apparently wasn’t as bad as Omarska et al.”

I would suggest that you have done apparently eff-all research on this subject then and respectfully recommend that you consult the following:
Diana Johnstone “Fool’s Crusade”
Michael Parenti “To Kill A Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia”

“And I don’t see any problem at all in the images of Alic.”

Again, you’ve done no research on the topic. Mark P (in good Stalinist tradition) is correct. You’re much better off erasing all traces of this discussion in order to continue painting a simplistic, unsupported picture of history. (Thanks Mark P., you’ve also confirmed my opinion of the Socialist Party).

All around, a big round of applause for The True Left Wing.

WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2011

Actually LOL, you’re entirely wrong.

I’ve had a close interest in the topic because firstly the Bosnian war was of considerable interest to me from a left wing position as a conflict taking place in Europe during that period when I myself was in my late 20s and early 30s, that I liked Ed Vulliamy’s writing long before 1992, thirdly because I was interested in both the RCP/LM and subsequently Spikd again both prior to 1992 and afterwards, fourthly because I was on the international committee of Democratic Left during the period in question when this issue was addressed on it and we met people from the Serbian Information Bureau (or whatever it was called).

I’m fully aware of what Johnston and Parenti have written [and what Chomsky has said]. I’m also aware of what a broader range of sources have written and said.

WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2011

By the way, calling Mark P a Stalinist is wildly inaccurate.

Mark P - May 29, 2011

L.O.L. you are using the mask of anonymity to repeat claims which were the subject of a successful libel claim and you are doing so on a site belonging to someone else. Someone who, because of your anonymity and the confused state of the law surrounding internet sites, could end up carrying the can for your anonymous “bravery”.

It’s one thing to repeat such claims while taking any risk yourself, quite another to make them while placing any attendant risk on the shoulders of someone else.

My views on that kind of behaviour have nothing to do with my views on the wars in the Former Yugoslavia, the Socialist Party’s views or my views on imperialist armed interventions. Indeed my opinions on the last seem closer to yours than they are to those of WbS.

L.O.L. - May 29, 2011

If the following allegations are true then your lack of worry about what could only be described as a pivotal propaganda moment (comparable with Judith Miller’s WMD stories about Iraq) speak volumes.

The following is a quote from the Parenti’s book (p.86 onwards). Interested readers can find the material on Google Books, even if Mark P succeeds in airbrushing it.

It beggars belief that a so-called “left wing” blog would have so many contributors who: a)are prepared to demonize an entire side AS A PEOPLE in a conflict; b)repeat only one side of a highly contentious history as fact; c)celebrate the detention of a man ALLEGED to have committed crimes by a NATO/US/EU apparatus that bombed civilians in the other side; d)accuse anyone not going along with this of actually supporting the atrocities which do appear to have been committed by the Serbs.

To Kill a Nation pp88-:

“If these various sites really were death camps would the Serbs have left them open to inspection by the International Red Cross and Western media? To be sure, none of the camps could be classified as luxury spas. Prisoners were crowded into incommodious quarters, sometimes poorly fed, and some were beaten or otherwise abused, as was also the case in Muslim and Croatian camps (and in prisons throughout the world), the only difference being that the Muslim and Croatian sites went unnoticed by Western journalists.

In 1992, Western media gave top exposure to photographs purporting to be of maltreated Bosnian Muslim prisoners in Serbian “concentration camps”. Such photos were subsequently proved to be of dubious credibility. At Trjnopolje’s refugee camp journalists and photographers deliberately placed themselves within a small barbed-wire enclosure that fenced in a utility shed, while the Muslim men stood outside the enclosure. Yet the impression left by the photographs was that the men were behind barbed wire. A severly emaciated man, identified as Fikret Alic, prominently displayed on the cover of Time and numerous other publications evoked the awful image of a Nazi-type death camp. Left unmentioned was that Alic was not imprisoned behind barbed wire. Also left unnoticed were all the healthy, well-fed individuals standing around him. Another emaciated man, purportedly a Serbian prisoner, appearing on the cover of Newsweek, was eventually identified as Slobodan Konjevic, a Serb arrested for looting. Konjevic had suffered from tuberculosis for ten years.”

L.O.L. - May 29, 2011

WbS
“I’m fully aware of what Johnston and Parenti have written [and what Chomsky has said]. I’m also aware of what a broader range of sources have written and said.”

Enough about you.

What specifically about the Fikret Alic image do you have no problem with. Which sources convince you that the portrayal of him and others as being in a concentration camp is accurate?

WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2011

Okay, I’m going to have to start censoring posts because as noted on the first one I edited, we don’t have deep pockets. But one small point ahead of that. LOL, you made it about me, you said that I knew eff-all.

Once I pointed out that that statement was inaccurate you then repeated a statement that others here have already advised is potentially libelous.

Given that you know the sensitivities surrounding this and the dangers that that entails for a blog and added to your offensive and snide tone prior to this I think you’ve been given quite enough leeway.

I’m banning you if there’s any further contributions alongthose lines.

Belgian Babies on German Pitchforks - May 29, 2011

@MarkP
L.O.L. you are using the mask of anonymity to repeat claims which were the subject of a successful libel claim and you are doing so on a site belonging to someone else. Someone who, because of your anonymity and the confused state of the law surrounding internet sites, could end up carrying the can for your anonymous “bravery”.

MarkP. The quoted section from Parenti’s book is available online, from those well-known lawbreakers “Google”. No specific allegations are made about any named individuals or organisations, merely that the portrayal of Fikret Alic as being in a concentration camp is inaccurate and is a propagandistic image used to justify the indiscriminate killing of Serbian men, women and children with cluster bombs.

Ditto the Chomsky YouTube video.

And meanwhile, while CLR chases after Mladic (whether or not he deserves it) the same crap is going on in Libya:
http://www.counterpunch.org/johnstone03072011.html

WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2011

And now you’re sockpuppeting. Anything else and you’re history.

10. dmfod - May 29, 2011

“This doesn’t mean that Europe or the EU or NATO had clean hands, simply that this was an instance where self-interest, a degree of altruism and proximity coincided.”

I’m not saying this what you mean by it World by Storm, but that’s pretty much the argument used to defend the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect i.e. that it doesn’t matter if interventions are selected to coincide with imperialist interests because the unquestionable moral imperative of humanitarianism overrides all other considerations.

I would argue that the wider political repercussions of such interventions can be more significant than any immediate humanitarian gain, especially as for those intervening any humanitarian gain is merely a legimitising side effect useful to head off criticism of their economic and geopolitical interests. In the long run those wider repercussions, in reinforcing imperialism, are likely to be so significant as to outweigh any immediate humanitarian gains. For instance Bosnia is still effectively an EU colony ruled over by an unelected High Representative who can overrule any decisions of the democratically elected parliament.

That’s without even going into the whole debate around the immediate humanitarian effects of NATO’s intervention in Kosovo such as the thousands of civilians killed in cluster bombing of civilian infrastructure and the precipitation of ethnic cleansing of Serbs.

WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2011

Well, in some instances perhaps it is arguable that humanitarianism, or to put it another way minimising loss of life – be it civilian or military, does tale precedence [though I'm probably as dubious as you about that being reified into some all embracing doctrine]. But my point isn’t to construct a rationale/justification for that so much as to point out that even by their own lights and putting humanitarianism aside NATO and the EU had a ready made justification in respect of proximity.

Going a bit further and linking slightly into your second paragraph point they NATO/EU could equally argue that basic pragmatism above humanitarianism demanded that they intervene due to that proximity in order to lessen political and military instability on their borders that might spill inwards. Not very noble, indeed not noble at all, but they could certainly argue that, and they could argue that non-intervention in the 90s might have led to a situation worse than the one you describe above – again something I’m not enthused by either.

yourcousin - May 29, 2011

dmfod,
So what you’re saying is that EU involvement in Bosnia is worse for the Bosnians than genocide?

Mark P - May 29, 2011

No, that isn’t what she said as you are well aware.

What she’s saying is that NATO (not EU) military intervention into Bosnia has primarily served the interests of imperialism, that it was the key military campaign which relegitimised imperialist interventions worldwide and, also, that it has left Bosnia a permanent EU colony/dictatorship.

The entire “cluster bombs for human rights” phenomenon stems from agitation for imperialist bombing missions in the former Yugoslavia.

dmfod - May 29, 2011

No. I’m saying the long term effects on Bosnia and the wider region and the world of legitimising imperialist military interventions may well be worse than the alternative.

The NATO intervention in Bosnia in 1995 relegitimised imperialist interventions after the Black Hawk Down debacle in Somalia, and since then has been used as the exemplar for every situation in which the West has had an interest in intervening, from Kosovo to Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya.

It set a precedent for the Western media and Western governments to appeal to humanitarianism as a new way of legitimising wars which are generally increasingly unpopular with domestic public opinion on straightforward national interest grounds and so are justified through appeals to ‘universal human rights’ instead – especially when the country is too remote for any credible security threat to be invoked.

Inccurately reducing all of that to ‘EU involvement’ is both a cheapshot and a euphemism of which the ‘international community’ would be proud.

yourcousin - May 30, 2011

Right, lets look at the alternative. An ethnically “pure” greater Serbia achieved through massive ethnic cleansing and genocide. We can dance around it all we want, but that was the alternative.

At what point does the big picture of this evil empire meet the reality of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Europe? Not as some “oh fuck the boys got out of hand”, but by systemic design and implementation.

Yugoslavia wasn’t destroyed by NATO, it was systematically dismantled from within. Not to say things like German encouragement for Croatia helped keep things cool, but it wasn’t Germany who set up road blocks in the Krajina to keep out non-Serbs. It wasn’t the US or Britain or France who besieged Sarajevo etc.

Again I’m not arguing that the Western powers were/are altruistic and benign, but to sit here and say, “well yes large scale rape was occuring. Yes there was torture and multilation of civilians taking place. Yes ethnic cleansing and genocide were being implemented as policy, but Bill Clinton is an asshole so lets butt out” doesn’t really cut it for me.

Can someone just please tell me of a realistic alternative to Western bombing that wouldn’t end with my opening paragraph and I’ll be alot more open to criticisms of the campaign.

11. Michael Carley - May 29, 2011

@Jim Monaghan re People’s Democracy. Henry McDonald describes a PD speaker addressing a Provo gathering in 1975, during the ceasefire, denouncing them for talking to the Brits. The IRA commander present said that obviously they couldn’t disobey orders and start shooting, but if the PD supplied names and addresses of suitable candidates, he would see to it that they would be supplied with the needful.

Bluff called, PD speaker backed down.

12. yourcousin - May 30, 2011

dmfod,
I’m breaking up my response so that it doesn’t become unwieldy.

I would challenge the idea that Bosnia reinvigorated the “Western war machine” in such a way that made subsequent conflicts more likely. The second Iraq war and Afghanistan are both direct results of 9/11 and Bush being an asshole. Both were presented as security threats to the US. Neither of which were related to Bosnia except tangentally (spelling?).

Also the issues of Bosnian instability and a lethargic/disfunctional democracy would to me at least stem much more from a system that makes D’Hondt look like nothing and from a real failure on the part of the Republika Srpska to have a reckoning for what happened. Their continued agitation to secede from Bosnia and join with Serbia proper. Democracy doesn’t really work so well when large portions of people don’t engage substanatively and actively obstruct things.

I mean look, we’re twenty years on. Where is this great new empire that NATO and the West are installing in the Balkans? Where are the decisions being made by the people that are being overturned by their new overlords? It looks to me like as soon as the killing stopped the Balkans went back to being a shithole that wasn’t worth page three of the local paper, let alone at the center of some massive NWO conspiracy. I mean jesus I think the West is pouring in much more money into the region than they’re extracting. What kind of empire loses money on it colonies?
_____________________________________

As for cheap shots. When you say,

I would argue that the wider political repercussions of such interventions can be more significant than any immediate humanitarian gain… In the long run those wider repercussions, in reinforcing imperialism, are likely to be so significant as to outweigh any immediate humanitarian gains. For instance Bosnia is still effectively an EU colony ruled over by an unelected High Representative who can overrule any decisions of the democratically elected parliament.

I take that to mean the hypothetical veto is of graver consequence the actual events that led to the current situation. I should of course add I am not “happy” with the current situation, but que sera, sera.

Mark P - May 30, 2011

1) The notion that there was no precedent set by NATO bombing during the Bosnian war would be be contested by a veritable army of academics, think tanks and NGOs, large numbers of whom have been pushing “the responsibility to protect” (which is to say, the responsibility of strong states to bomb weak ones) as a foreign policy doctrine ever since.

“Humanitarian” claims provided only part of the soundtrack to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, although they were certainly present, for instance in talk of how Afghan women were going to be liberated and educated. (They did not mean the educational effects of seeing your village bombed flat). However, the bombing missions in Kosovo were mounted using precisely the same set of arguments and the new wave of NATO bombings in Libya are also being justified using the same concepts. Indeed, many commentators wedded to the “humanitarian intervention” doctrine are contrasting this alleged return to good war as opposed to the bad wars of Iraq and Afghanistan.

More locally, the Irish army were recently dispatched to Chad, amidst more talk of humanitarianism, to assist the French in their colonial intervention there.

2) The record of allegedly humanitarian interventions in accomplishing humanitarian ends is rather dubious. Kosovo is a prime example – atrocities against civilians by Serb forces were massively stepped up after the bombing began, and the defeat of the Serbs was accompanied by a new wave of ethnic cleansing against Serbian civilians. It is arguable (although results are not yet in, so we can only be conditional on this) that the NATO bombing in Libya may succeed only in making a civil war longer and bloodier.

Bosnia stands alone as the “success” story of humanitarian interventionism and even there the record is less clear than one might imagine.

3) It is important to note that the bombing took place in September 1995, by which stage the military situation had already begun to shift. The Bosnian and Croat forces had allied together. Serb successes in the latter part of the war had been in large part contingent on fighting between Bosnians and Croats.

Western Slavonia fell to the Croats in May. At the same time as the Serbs were taking Srebrenica in July, they were being driven out of the Bosnian Krajina. The Croation Krajina fell to Croat forces, with Bosnian assistance, at the start of August (amidst atrocities against those Serbian civilians who didn’t flee). This had the effect of lifting the siege of the Bihac enclave and it also changed the strategic map completely. The breakaway “Republic of Western Bosnia” fell immediately to the Bosnians and much of the Western part of Republica Srbska was now vulnerable.

The bombing simply did not take place against a background of sweeping Serbian advances. They had generally been bogged down, in some places they were in retreat and in others their earlier gains were under threat. When the bombing started it was accompanied by a sweeping Croat/Bosnian offensive in the Western half of Bosnia, which was made possible by a combination of the fall of Krajina and the “Republic of Western Bosnia” and the Nato bombing campaign. This advance was, unsurprisingly, not without atrocities of its own.

On the “credit” side of the debate, there is an argument to be made that the NATO bombing campaign, combined with the Bosnian/Croat advance, brought peace negotiations forward at a time when the war could otherwise have reached a bloody stalemate.

4) It’s worth noting that the involvement of the Western powers in Yugoslavia did not begin with the NATO intervention. They, most notably Germany, had been important players in encouraging the break of the federation, starting with Slovenia. There were certainly centrifugal forces at work within Yugoslavia, but Western meddling was a contributing factor and was, like so much else, motivated by national interests not by some bizarrely out of character altruism.

The major Western powers wanted to see Yugoslavia broken up and they wanted the economies of the new states opened up and their industries and resources privatised. And that is what has happened.

5) There’s no conspiracy theory here. Merely an understanding that states in general, and imperial powers in particular, are motivated by their own interests. That’s true when they are encouraging separatists in neighbouring countries and it’s true when they go to war.

6) Bosnia is not in itself a major prize, although Yugoslavia as a whole was. However, it is still worth noting that under its new colonial dispensation the economy has been deregulated and its assets privatised. Ultimate authority rests with the colonial proconsul, who has the authority to overrule any decision made by the elected governments. This is not a “hypothetical veto”, it is an authority that is used.

7) I will confess that I’ve never really grasped the internal logic of the view which ascribes the right to secede from Yugoslavia to the Slovenians, Croatians, Bosnians, Macedonians and Montenegrans and the right to secede from Serbia to Kosovans, but which also denies that Serbs have any right to secede from Bosnia, Croatia or Kosovo.

yourcousin - May 31, 2011

Mark,
1)I’m not arguing precedent, I’m arguing that Iraq, Afghanistan etc happened due to Bosnia. The bombing of Kosovo used the arguments of Bosnia precisely because it was due to what happened in Bosnia (ie western powers getting caught with their pants down) that they intervened in Kosovo. I happened to support it then largely due to similar reasons why I support Libya. What would happen otherwise? Had the West done something in Rwanda (I mean other than stick its thumb up its ass) I suppose we would be hearing about that as well?

2) Your point on violence perpetrated by Serbian state forces just prior to and just after the air campaign is technically correct, but it fails to take into account the fact that the incident rate shot up in direct correspondence to the absence of Western observers present in Kosovo who withdrew just prior to the bombings. It’s also mind boggling that there’s a basic admission of what the Serbs did (ie ethnic cleansing as policy directed at civilians both in Bosnia and Kosovo) and still arguing on about abstract points. Seriously what the fuck?

3)No one is arguing that the West stepped in forcefully early on. I hold that against them, others do not. I assume from the fact that we’re having this debate that you are part of the latter group. The timing does not negate any of the charges of ethnic cleansings and genocide btw these things were going on from the early days of the war, so the fact that nothing was done by outsiders until later changes nothing IMO.

4)Right and I acknowledged Germany’s encouragement, but like I said that wouldn’t have been enough to break up Yugoslavia. And again, It’s funny out how genocide is reduced to an abstract, incidental, side note while economic arguments about privitization is seen as fait accompli from the very get go which was of course at the center of the whole thing. And again I’m not claiming that the West is this beacon of hope full of altruisc leanings. But this narrative of a socialist state attacked by greedy capitalists/imperialists to further their own far reaching ends negates the responsibility of the primary players (the various figures and politicians in the Former Yugoslavia Republics) and relegates a sorrid tale for all involved into a simplistic Western boogeyman scheme.

6)Yes but I’d like to see the veto. You argue that it is authority that is used, okay all I’m saying is show this great destroyer of democracy in the Balkans. Show me where governments and people of the Balkans want one thing and then are over turned to suit the needs of capital. And btw I’m saying that this kind of thing coudn’t happen, but show me.

7)I know your only using this point as a rhetorical whipping boy, but lets lay it out just because. The logic is as follows. In the Yugoslavian constitution the Republics could vote to secede from Federal Yugoslavia. The right of the republics was denied to Kosovo and Vojvodina because it was thought they would be the only ones to actually use it (which is still the legal reason some states refuse to recognize Kosovo). Again Kosovo is wildly contested so far as legitimacy goes as a state. Personally I think that to suggest that Serbians living in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo should be able to secede to join a greater Serbia is a slap in the face to all victims of ethnic cleansing. Because the “ethnic purity” of those regions largely rests upon the very crimes we’re debating.

Mark P - May 31, 2011

1)I’m not arguing precedent, I’m arguing that Iraq, Afghanistan etc happened due to Bosnia.

I presume you mean here that Iraq and Afghanistan did not happen due to Bosnia. But in fact you do accept that Kosovo and Libya have happened due to Libya, you don’t address the example of Chad, and you don’t address the point which has been made about humanitarian arguments forming at least part of the background music for the invasion of Afghanistan.

You aren’t arguing precedent because you want to turn the discussion into an apolitical guilt trip about the Srebrenica massacre, where anyone who tries to draw any broader political analysis about the role of imperialism or the wider consequences of the “responsibility to protect” can be smeared as indifferent to genocide.

I happened to support it then largely due to similar reasons why I support Libya. What would happen otherwise?

So that’s three instances of cruise missile humanitarianism you support. Are there any other impoverished states you’d like to see NATO bomb?

Had the West done something in Rwanda (I mean other than stick its thumb up its ass) I suppose we would be hearing about that as well?

The West did “do something in Rwanda”. It colonised and brutalised the region, established a sort of tribal/ethnic caste system, it propped up and assisted various useful factions. It sold weapons and it continually interfered with the politics and economy of the country. The French in particular were still heavily interfering up to and during the genocide.

You may find the following link of interest:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/jan/11/rwanda.insideafrica

You may also want to ponder while reading it, why exactly some of us think that the most effective “humanitarianism” the Western powers could indulge in would be to end their entirely self-interested imperialist role in the rest of the world. And why even those of us who share your hatred of mass murders have little time for people who want the Western powers to carpet bomb villages for democracy.

It’s also mind boggling that there’s a basic admission of what the Serbs did (ie ethnic cleansing as policy directed at civilians both in Bosnia and Kosovo) and still arguing on about abstract points. Seriously what the fuck?

This is an almost perfect encapsulation of your point of view. Any wider understanding, anything beyond an allegedly depoliticised falling in behind Western bombing campaigns, is “abstract”. Once we’ve established that bad people have done bad things there’s nothing further to say. This is willful idiocy or it is cynical dishonesty, I can’t really work out which.

Personally I think that to suggest that Serbians living in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo should be able to secede to join a greater Serbia is a slap in the face to all victims of ethnic cleansing.

Yet strangely the incorporation of Krajina into Croatia isn’t “a slap in the face to all victims of ethnic cleansing”, which in that region means mostly Serb civilians. And the independence of Kosovo isn’t “a slap in the face to all victims of ethnic cleansing” including the Serb and Roma civilians who have been driven out. I understand that you apparently believe that Serbs have less democratic rights than other people, but what did the Roma do to you?

dmfod - May 30, 2011

“Right, lets look at the alternative. An ethnically “pure” greater Serbia achieved through massive ethnic cleansing and genocide. We can dance around it all we want, but that was the alternative.”

As Mark P has said there is no way of knowing this would have been the outcome. It’s easy to justify almost any foreign policy action if you posit some apocalyptic outcome as the only alternative.

“I would challenge the idea that Bosnia reinvigorated the “Western war machine” in such a way that made subsequent conflicts more likely.”

I’m not saying Bosnia made conflicts more likely per se, at least not directly. The effect it had was to provide NATO/the West with a new way of legitimising imperialist conflicts that has proved useful in shoring up dwindling public support. An additional repercussion has been the automatic application of a human rights abuses frame to every conflict in the South, delegitimising the very notion of political conflict. Now the only actors ‘allowed’ to use violence are the West and the general presumption is that armed groups in the South are power hungry bandits out for control of natural resources with no legitimate grievances. This is reflected in the whole concept of ‘new wars’ motivated by ‘greed not grievance’ in underdeveloped backwaters like Sierra Leone, Liberia or Chad where Western intervention is portrayed as obviously civilising and necessary in situations of mindless barbarism. Demonising actors in conflicts and decontextualised ‘victim pornography’ are effective means of depoliticisation that justify foreign intervention.

Another variation on this theme is ‘intervention for democracy’ which has been used in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, alongside humanitarian and security motives. Thus we now have a handy package of 3 justifications, at least one of which can be applied to just about any conflict and two of which correspond to the declining variety of legitimate purposes for political violence left after the ‘end of history’ i.e. liberal democracy and ‘some one think of the children!!’

On a broader level the whole notion that ‘we’ have a responsibility to intervene when the only available vehicle for intervention is an imperialist alliance of countries responsible for more deaths than any of the actors involved in localised internal conflicts goes against everything I believe as a Marxist. ‘I’ am not part of any community represented by NATO. Why would I support them attacking some other smaller, vicious actor? It would be like (hypothetically) supporting Mussolini against the Ustasha, the US against the Taliban or Saddam against the Ayatollahs.

“Yes ethnic cleansing and genocide were being implemented as policy, but Bill Clinton is an asshole so lets butt out” … “The second Iraq war and Afghanistan are both direct results of 9/11 and Bush being an asshole.”

There’s a bit more to foreign policy and objecting to imperialism than not liking whoever the current US president is and ascribing everything the US does to his alleged personality traits. But then again most Irish would apparently agree with you given the enthusiastic welcome for Obama and the hostility to Bush, even though Obama is continuing Bush’s foreign policy. All of which illustrates the crucial importance of how imperialism is presented: humanitarianism, supporting democracy, a black President who personifies the American dream vs. crude national interest, jingoism and a fratboy son of privilege in cowboy boots. The former is much more appealing bur the basic underlying motives are the same regardless of how they are dressed up.

13. Chet Carter - May 30, 2011

It is a waste of time trying to debate politics with the Living Marxism grouplet. They get a perverse infantile joy out of antagonising anyone they perceive to be on the Left. Mark P a Stalinist!?!

Although the Revolutionary Communist Party claimed to champion the working class against the political correctness of the Left I doubt if they have any experience of working class life. They certainly never lived it, they are all journos or polytechnic lecturers.

They antagonise the Left to display libertarian Free market credentials to their paymasters – Daily Mail, Boris Johnson, large corporations who want to debunk global warming, etc. But they are sensitive to Serbia and their condemnation of the IRA ceasefire being brought up. I don’t think Boris and the Daily Mail would approve.

Meanwhile back in the real world

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=25022

L.O.L. - May 30, 2011

Ah Chet! You’re priceless. You do know that the main man behind GlobalResearch is Boris Chossudovsky don’t you? The man who wrote, among many other things, this:

Shaky Evidence of a “Humanitarian Catastrophe” Prior to the Bombings
In the course of “covering-up” the real motivations of NATO in launching the War, the international media has also failed to mention that an official intelligence report of the German Foreign Ministry (used to establish the eligibility of political refugees from Kosovo) confirmed that there was no evidence of “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo in the months immediately preceding the bombings. Who is lying? German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer had justified NATO’s intervention pointing to a “humanitarian catastrophe”, yet the internal documents of his own ministry say exactly the opposite:
“Even in Kosovo an explicit political persecution linked to Albanian ethnicity is not verifiable. The East of Kosovo is still not involved in armed conflict. Public life in cities like Pristina, Urosevac, Gnjilan, etc. has, in the entire conflict period, continued on a relatively normal basis. The actions of the security forces [were] not directed against the Kosovo-Albanians as an ethnically defined group, but against the military opponent [KLA] and its actual or alleged supporters.”… “29
[W]ith an agreement made with the Serbian leadership at the end of 1998 … both the security situation and the conditions of life of the Albanian-derived population have noticeably improved… Specifically in the larger cities public life has since returned to relative normality.”29

[...]

“The Racak Massacre”
The so-called “Racak massacre” occurred shortly before the launching of the Rambouillet “peace initiative”. although it turned out to be a fake, the Racak massacre nonetheless played a key role in “setting the stage” for NATO’s air raids. William Walker declared (in his capacity as head of KVM) that the Yugoslav police had carried out a massacre of civilians at Racak on January 15th. The Yugoslav authorities retorted that local police had in fact conducted an operation in this village against the Kosovo Libration Army and that several KLA soliders had died in cross-fire. As later reported by several French newspapers (Le Monde, Le Figaro and Liberation), it was confirmed that the “Racak massacre” was indeed a fake put together with a view to discrediting Belgrade:
“Eventually, even the Los Angeles Times joined in, running a story entitled “Racak Massacre Questions: Were Atrocities Faked?” The theory behind all these exposs was that the KLA had gathered their own dead after the battle, removed their uniforms, put them in civilian clothes, and then called in the observers.”44.

Right. As you were. Back to simplistic White Hat versus Black Hat history.

WorldbyStorm - May 30, 2011

Given that a guy called Bob Chapman wrote the actual article Chet links to what’s your point, that there are no divergences or differing opinions? Or convergences on other issues?

L.O.L. - May 31, 2011

Do you really not see the point? In that case I’ll stack my evaluation of you in the corner with Chet(nik)’s.

Meanwhile have you had time to prepare a defense of why you have “no problem” with the Fikret Alić photo Me Oul Humanitarian Bomber?

WorldbyStorm - May 31, 2011

I fear it is you who has the comprehension problem. You’ve been asked above to desist from referencing Alic in particular and for reasons articulated above. Despite the fact that you sockpuppeted I was willing once you stayed away from that specific topic to allow you to continue discussing other aspects of the Bosnian War etc, despite your continuing discourtesy to others on here, but unfortunately as evidenced by your most recent post you can’t do it. Discourtesy I can just about take, but potentially causing legal problems for this site I can’t.

So I’m afraid that’s the last we’ll be hearing from you for some time pending review.

14. Chet Carter - May 30, 2011

Hey Lol, I like absorbing information from all sources – from the Cedar lounge to the Daily Mail and all points in between. I await a Daily Mail article from the Living Marxism member on why he was against the IRA ceasfire with interest.

15. Jim Monaghan - May 31, 2011

http://www.opendemocracy.net/heather-mcrobie-sadzida-tulic/ratko-mladi%C4%87s-arrest-start-but-let-it-not-obscure-how-much-more-is-nee?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzEmail&utm_content=201210&utm_campaign=Nightly_2011-05-31%2005%3a30

A thoughtful article from Open Democracy.While I accept that all sides committed crimes and that many of teh leaders were little better than Mladic, I regard the Bosniaks as the most sinned against. The pity is that Stalin prevented a South Balkan federation that would have include both Romania and Bulgaria. here no one national group would have been dominant.It would possibly have allowed a form of self determination for other minority peoples.
But good news, Salonika has elected a tolerant mayor who recognises the multi ethnic past of the city and does not adhere to Greek chauvinism.

incredulous - May 31, 2011

So now Stalin is to blame for srebrenica? Will this form part of Mladic’s defense?

I suppose Stalin is also to blame for 9/11, and for putting fluoride in our water as a way of facilitating thought control through magnetism.

Do you wear your tin-foil hat out in public, Jim, or is it just for when you’re typing?

Chet Carter - May 31, 2011

Don’t know about Stalin being responsible for Srebinica but there is an argument that NATO intervention lead to this genocide being committed.

The United Nations presence must have given the towns population a false sense of security. It could never have occured to them that the Dutch troops on the ground would collaborate with the Serbian paramilitaries. First disarming the adult males and then segregating them to be led off to their death.

16. Jim Monaghan - May 31, 2011

Tito and Dimitrov had agreed to a Balkan federation which was vetoed by the USSR. This is in the historical record. My point is that within Yugoslavia the Serbs were dominant but not dominant enough to prevent a breakup.
srebrenica is just one of many massacres. The task is to get a lasting settlement not just a pause before the next round.
Every Balkan state has minorities. The common feature is ill treatment.I include Greece and Turkey in this dismal list.
Oh a Balkan federation is an old Socialist demand. Before WW1.


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