Monday, October 31, 2005

Chomsky on Srebrenica

In case anyone missed it, here's an extract from today's Guardian interview with Noam Chomsky.
Chomsky discusses Srebrenica- and once again gives his support to the excellent Diana Johnstone. Chomsky is absolutely right to talk of the 'hysterical fanaticism' about Bosnia in western culture- and the Stalinist response directed towards all those who dared- and continue to dare to question the 'party line'.
For neo-conservatives, the cause of Bosnian separatism was an obsession and inflating the casualty figures not just of Srebrenica- but of the whole Yugoslav conflict, became a political necessity. All the deaths in the conflict were tragic- but the deliberate exaggeration of casualty figures to justify the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 was an act of true depravity.

Q: Do you regret supporting those who say the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated?A (Chomsky): My only regret is that I didn't do it strongly enough

As some see it, one ill-judged choice of cause (by Chomsky) was the accusation made by Living Marxism magazine that during the Bosnian war, shots used by ITN of a Serb-run detention camp were faked. The magazine folded after ITN sued, but the controversy flared up again in 2003 when a journalist called Diane Johnstone made similar allegations in a Swedish magazine, Ordfront, taking issue with the official number of victims of the Srebrenica massacre. (She said they were exaggerated.) In the ensuing outcry, Chomsky lent his name to a letter praising Johnstone's "outstanding work". Does he regret signing it?
"No," he says indignantly. "It is outstanding. My only regret is that I didn't do it strongly enough. It may be wrong; but it is very careful and outstanding work."
How, I wonder, can journalism be wrong and still outstanding?
"Look," says Chomsky, "there was a hysterical fanaticism about Bosnia in western culture which was very much like a passionate religious conviction. It was like old-fashioned Stalinism: if you depart a couple of millimetres from the party line, you're a traitor, you're destroyed. It's totally irrational. And Diane Johnstone, whether you like it or not, has done serious, honest work. And in the case of Living Marxism, for a big corporation to put a small newspaper out of business because they think something they reported was false, is outrageous."
They didn't "think" it was false; it was proven to be so in a court of law.
But Chomsky insists that "LM was probably correct" and that, in any case, it is irrelevant. "It had nothing to do with whether LM or Diane Johnstone were right or wrong." It is a question, he says, of freedom of speech. "And if they were wrong, sure; but don't just scream well, if you say you're in favour of that you're in favour of putting Jews in gas chambers."


Raoul Djukanovic said...

For neo-conservatives, the cause of Bosnian separatism was an obsession

Would those be the Serbian neo-conservative militias engaging in a spot of pre=emptive defence in April 1992?

Sure, there's been a systemic bias in Western media coverage of the wars in Yugoslavia - particularly in the credulous foghorning of Western spin - and it's also uncertain exactly how many thousand people were killed at Srebrenica.

On this, Johnstone makes a couple of good points, but then undermines them with the insinuation that Izetbegovic "let it happen on purpose", for which she offers no evidence except a quote about how it might take a massacre for NATO to intervene.

If you find this credible, I look forward to your next Guardian column focusing on the same "let it happen on purpose" thesis about the 9/11 attacks, for which there is a similar lack of evidence.

Anonymous said...

Johnstone is not the only one who said that Izetbegovic wanted Srebrenica to happen. There is more than enough evidence that Izetbegovic let quite a few things happen, e.g. the bread queue in Vase Miskina street. The Markale bombing. The first I know from eyewitnesses that there was a film crew waiting to film the carnage. As for the second there is BBC footage, if they haven't wiped it, with a UN soldier clearly saying that the bomb could not have come from the Serb positions judging from the trajectory of the missile. I would think that that would be enough food for thought.

Raoul Djukanovic said...

As I said, there's no more conclusive evidence about Srebrenica than PNAC's "catastrophic and catalysing event - like a new Pearl Harbor" comment.

Will you be submitting a column about government complicity in the 9/11 attacks to The Guardian any time soon? You wouldn't be the first...

Anonymous said...

All the people who denies the massacre of Srebrenica are faxists. Lot of people also deny the Holocaust... and I think we have enough evidences that it happened. In Srebrenica memorial cementery there are now more than 2.000 graves, every day the expertees teams working in mass graves find the remains of disappeared people in Srebrenica, but there are still people deniying the massacre... it's a shame! But the time has the key, in ten years, the cementery will be full and these faxist will see the 8.000 graves in front of their eyes... Are they going to say then that the number of killed people was exagerated? Shame on Mr. Chomsky and Ms Johnstone!

Anonymous said...

The Guardian has issued an apology to Chomsky and a full retraction of the "interview" including corrections of two fabricated quotations, including the headline Q&A.