[Marxism] a query

Homo Indeterminatus homoindetermin at aim.com
Fri Jul 2 03:55:33 MDT 2010

On Jul 2, 2010, at 6:32 AM, Gary MacLennan wrote:

> I am reading  Michael J. Perry's  case for the universality of Human Rights
> based on his belief that  every human being is sacred.  I am very
> sympathetic to that position.  However I was deeply disturbed by the
> reference in his article to atrocities committed in 'former Yugoslavia.  the
> report he uses is World News tonight Peter Jennings 18 February 1994. It
> contains the following
> "[Tesma Elezovic, through interpreter:] I saw with my own eyes Tadic beat
> the prisoners, throw them into hot oil, force them to castrate each other,
> beating them so badly, they died."
> I would not deny that atrocities took place, but the above account reminds
> me too much of the babies in the incuabtors story from the First Iraq war.
> Is there a reliable account of the war against Yugoslavia war that I could
> consult?

I don't know what your standards for reliability are, but here is a contemporaneous UNHCR report from early in the war that may provide some insight into the nature and scale of what was happening at the time:


Some of the language will seem overheated at this distance from events, and if you don't filter for the frantic helplessness of people close to the action - who just desperately wanted it to stop, while being able to do nothing about that other than scream in memo form - it may seem biased. The detail is quite overwhelming, which I think plays strongly for its credibility, even if some of it is exaggerated; you just wouldn't make all of that up, because you would know that nobody would believe you. I'm not sure if I should offer this as a disclaimer or as evidence of authority, but I've been to many of the places named in the report and have friends and acquaintances who experienced or witnessed some of the events in the report or similar, and whom I found to be uniformly and consistently credible over many years. I've actually heard worse than the stories in the testimony Perry cites, and although I leave open the possibility that some of it was fabricated, if pressed I'd have to say that on balance I ultimately found even the worst of it credible - mainly because they were things I reluctantly realized I could more easily imagine groups of drunk, armed men doing than anybody else making up. Take that for what it's worth.

For other accounts of the war, Silber and Little's "The Death of Yugoslavia" is a must-read concerning causes and events leading up to the war and the first couple of years of the Bosnian war (through middle of 1994, IIRC). BBC made it a documentary of it which you can watch here:


Peter Maass' "Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War" is also very good although more of a personal narrative.

By the way, for a powerful account of the sacredness of human being as not just a legal principle but an inescapable ontological fact (or "horizon" - probably a better word), I highly recommend Ernest Becker's "The Denial of Death." Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, his argument also provides good insight into the roots of terrorizing violence and atrocity.

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