[Marxism] Chomsky on Yugoslavia

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Nov 19 14:18:20 MST 2005

The redbaiting Serbophobe Michael Pugliese has written his 7000th post on 
Doug Henwood's list trashing Noam Chomsky, this time around what he said or 
didn't say about Srebrenica. This prompted Jim Heartfield of spiked-online 
to counter-attack. As many of you might know, LM--which has mutated into 
spiked-online--was extremely critical of NATO intervention in the Balkans, 
which led the Guardian reporter to make an amalgam between LM and Chomsky. 
The reason for this should be obvious. LM and spiked-online are not very 
popular on the left. That being said, probably the best thing they ever did 
was stand up to the sanctimonious lies about the need to stop "genocide" in 
Bosnia and Kosovo.

Doug Henwood: [I forwarded an excerpt from James Heartfield's post - the 
quoted bit
below - to Chomsky, who answers.]


 >It was wrong to characterise the civil war as a genocide, since all
 >sides were involved in atrocities, in my opinion, though I don't
 >know whether Chomsky would agree.


On the query, there are really two questions: (1) were all sides
engaged in atrocities, (2) is it right to call it "genocide."

The two questions are unrelated.  There is no connection between them.

As for (1), it's certainly true, though the bulk of the atrocities
were Bosnian Serbs.  As for Srebrenica, the most extensive study, by
the Dutch government, concludes that Belgrade didn't know about it,
and that Milosevic was appalled when he heard about it.  That's being
kept under wraps because it explodes the Tribunal, which is unusually
dishonest even by those not glorious standards.  Furthermore, one can
easily explain the imbalance, and the great powers, particularly
Germany and the US, have a lot to answer for as well.  There is very
good material on this, including even the Canadian general and the
head of US intelligence in Sarajevo -- all public, kept under wraps.
This was a crucial event in Western intellectual history: an
opportunity for self-adulation on the part of Western intellectuals
because of their heroism in condemning crimes by Serb peasants, at a
time when Serbia was an enemy -- not because of its crimes, real but
irrelevant, but because it was the only corner of Europe not
following the Don's commands.  Therefore any questioning of the Party
Line is met by the usual hysteria of the commissar class.

As for (2), it depends on how one wants to use the term "genocide."
Personally, I prefer to keep it in its original intent: the
Holocaust, Rwanda, maybe a few other cases.  I never even called East
Timor "genocide," though maybe 1/3 of the population was killed by
Indonesia-US-UK, along with others who thought they could make a
buck.  Or Vietnam.  Or Guatemala and El Salvador.  But by now the
term has been so cheapened that anything can be called "genocide" as
long as some enemy carries out it.  So there's no answer.


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