[Marxism] Diana Johnstone letter to the Guardian

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Nov 23 11:55:30 MST 2005

The Bosnian war was brutal, but it wasn't a Holocaust

I do not deny atrocities, but unlike others I give them a proper political 
context, says Diana Johnstone

Wednesday November 23, 2005
The Guardian

In apologising to Noam Chomsky (Corrections and clarifications, November 
17), the Guardian's readers' editor also had the decency to correct some 
errors concerning me in Emma Brockes's interview with Chomsky (G2, October 
31). Despite this welcome retraction, the impression might linger from Ms 
Brockes's confused account that my work on the Balkans consists in denying 

My book, Fools' Crusade: Yugoslavia, Nato and Western Delusions, which was 
published in late 2002 by Pluto Press, is a documented analysis of the 
historical background and the political context of the wars of Yugoslavian 
disintegration. It includes considerable information about such relatively 
overlooked matters as German policies towards minorities, Slovenian 
politics, the divisions between Bosnian Muslim politicians, and the 
troubled history of Kosovo.

My book does not attempt to recount what happened at Srebrenica, but to 
point to the political symbolism of such events, marked by the media 
tendency to dwell on some and not on others, to repeat the highest of 
casualty estimates when there is no scientifically established number, and 
above all to simplify and dramatise an unfamiliar and complex reality by 
resorting to analogy with Hitler and the Holocaust.

The analytical approach seems to be intolerable to a certain number of 
writers and journalists who, for one reason or another, insist on 
portraying the Yugoslavian conflicts in highly emotional terms as a 
Manichaean struggle between evil and innocence. They reduce my book, as 
they reduce the Balkan conflict itself, to a certain number of notorious 
atrocities, and stigmatise whatever deviates from their own dualistic 

I believe that this intense attachment to a Manichaean view of the 
Yugoslavian conflicts stems in part from the disarray of the left in the 
1990s. What did it even mean any more to be "on the left"? Eastern Europe, 
after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, provided the answer: the new threat 
was "nationalism". It was a short step to being convinced that the worst of 
all evils was Serbian nationalism, and that the proof of being on the left 
was the degree of indignation expressed in its condemnation.

This attitude, as well as emotional involvement on behalf of the Bosnian 
Muslims, led numerous writers to minimise the role of other nationalisms in 
Yugoslavia, notably Croatian and Albanian nationalism, and to overlook the 
harmful effects of German and United States interference. This interference 
culminated in the 1999 Nato war, which was justified by a series of 
extravagant analogies (Bosnia likened to the Holocaust, Kosovo likened to 
Bosnia). It set the precedent for the United States to wage war in 
violation of the national sovereignty of weaker countries as a method of 
achieving political change.

This is a much greater threat to the world than Bosnian Serb nationalists, 
however brutal their behaviour in the mid-1990s. I believe that this is our 
primary political responsibility as citizens of the United States and of 

· Diana Johnstone is the author of The Politics of Euromissiles: Europe in 
America's World.

dianajohnstone at compuserve.com




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