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Bill Weinberg supports the onset of World War IV


[Note: Weinberg put  a very similar version of  this critique on his World War 4 web site, which I answered with the reply I reproduce here with only minor bracketed changes that reflect his occasional shifts. But as I noted in my initial reply, I don't have time to do justice to all of Weinberg's distortions, as there isn't  a single paragraph, and very few sentences, that are not vulnerable to disassembly for ignorance and misrepresentation, false "implications,"  and attack by snide put-downs.]

Bill Weinberg’s attack on my article "The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre" ("The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre," ZNet, July 7, 2005, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=74&ItemID=8244) is titled "Z magazine supports genocide." In that article I did contest the standard narrative about Srebrenica, but for Weinberg this is maddening and illegitimate, and anybody that does this can’t be honest and must be an apologist. This is a standard rightwing smear tactic whereby somebody who, for example, criticizes the Bush attack on Iraq "supports Saddam Hussein" or who opposes the Patriot Act is a "supporter of terrorism."  I can’t just disagree on Srebrenica, I must be an apologist: and for genocide.

Of course, a stronger argument can be made that since the huge focus on the Srebrenica massacre serves, among other goals, to put the Clinton-Blair war against Serbia in a good light, Weinberg’s swallowing this party-line position is apologetics for war, and a war that was part of  World War 4, or a natural feed-in to Bush’s wars. There was the same disregard for the UN Charter, war crimes galore in the bombing of  Serbia (open attacks on civilian infrastructure, use of depleted uranium), the refusal to negotiate any kind of settlement (notably in the case of the U.S.-Izetbegovic sabotaging of the 1992 Lisbon  agreement, and Rambouillet), the insistence on war as the means of resolution, and the building of  Camp Bondsteel, a gigantic permanent military base in Kosovo. Its connection with Serb villainy is a sick joke; the most thoroughly ethnically-cleansed areas in the former Yugoslavia are Croatia and NATO-occupied Kosovo. But the standard Srebrenica story tells us that this was all just because we were dealing with true evil, and on one side only. This is war-supportive crap that Weinberg buys and helps disseminate.

In proving me an apologist, one technique Weinberg uses is the false inference. For example, he says that my "first half" (a lie: less than a quarter) is spent arguing the political convenience of the massacre: analogous to "arguing that My Lai didn’t happen because it was ‘convenient’ to the NLF." But I say explicitly that "political interest hardly proves that the establishment narrative is wrong. It does, however, suggest the need for caution…"  This kind of lying is important for Weinberg, because a main feature of his article is its complete lack of caution and his touching assumption that all those folks who have a political interest in the standard narrative are unbiased and simply truth-seekers. The Serbs lie and bury and rebury bodies, but the good guys give us the straight poop. Throughout, he talks about an "international investigation" studying this subject as if the parties doing that investigating have no political axe to grind. 

I spend many pages showing how the Bosnian Muslim leadership did lie to try to induce NATO intervention, and I even quote Izetbegovic’s death-bed admission of lying to Bernard Kouchner and Richard Holbrooke. Weinberg dodges these and focuses on my claim of  self-inflicted casualties by the Bosnian Muslims. He says I "implicitly (not explicitly, which would require more courage) argue that these were black propaganda jobs." Weinberg lies once more: I say clearly that the conclusion that these were black propaganda jobs is "based on serious and substantial evidence," and I cite powerful sources for this conclusion: two articles by NYT reporter David Binder, the study by  on-the-scene U.S. army officer John Sray, a major Senate Staff Report of 1997, and more. But Weinberg doesn’t mention or discuss these: he knows that the establishment party line is true and it is easier to rely on misrepresentation and evasion . [Note: in this version of  his reply Weinberg  does mention the Senate Report, but instead of dealing with its substance he uses the diversionary tactic of  sneering at my reference to such an official document: "so heart warming to see leftists making common cause with their enemies": so, use establishment sources and we get smart alec sneers; use dissident sources and they are unreliable.]

In discussing "the actual mechanics of the massacre" Weinberg says my "principal argument" seems to be that since the "safe areas" weren’t disarmed, "the Serbs were justified in overrunning them and slaughtering 8,000 mostly civilian war captives." This is only "implicit ." No one in his right mind would argue that "slaughtering 8,000" people is justified under any circumstances. No one did: certainly not me. That Weinberg suggests otherwise shows Weinberg’s fundamental dishonesty.  But what I do contest throughout my article is whether it was factually the case that, following the evacuation of the Bosnian Muslim population from Srebrenica in July, 1995, the Bosnian Serbs slaughtered anywhere near the reported 8,000 Bosnian Muslim males of the standard narrative, and whether the false claim that they did serves political goals dramatically different than the concerns expressed by humanitarians. As regards the history of the "safe areas" and their abuse,  I discussed this in order to explain why the Serbs might have serious grievances and might attack, and might even take vengeance (they had lists of Srebrenica-based killers). Smear artist Weinberg does a little massaging here, covered by "implicit," and he asserts the 8,000 figure as a given truth (never in the course of his article honestly confronting my critique of this figure) and adds "civilian" war captives, a sure lie of a NATO-war propagandist.

[Note: the gem that follows is in Weinberg's original, dropped in this revised version.] Weinberg’s  reference to my citation for a claim of 1,000 Serb civilians killed by the Bosnian Muslims in the Serb vicinity is amusing: it is "footnoted to the report from Yugoslavia’s UN ambassador without the slightest suggestion that this might be a dubious touchstone for veracity." Two points here: First, that report from way back in 1993 gives names and addresses and details on hundreds of  Bosnian Serb victims, hard data that is not likely to have been manufactured. Second, Weinberg at no point ever hints at the possibility that the Bosnian Muslims, who have done most of the collection of bodies, or the Clinton administration, or anybody else who peddles the party line might in any way "be a dubious touchstone for veracity." This is patriotic and party line naivete of the grossest sort, but partly explains Weinberg’s anger and refusal to deal honestly with my long section on "The Serial Lying Before and After Srebrenica." It must also be a struggle for Weinberg to deal with the Bush administration’s steady lying, which we must assume represents a sharp departure from the Clinton gang’s honesty in the pursuit of evil.

Weinberg does allow an important instance in which Serbs do tell the truth, but  this droll case is one where they actually do lie under pressure and threat. He says that the standard narrative was even confirmed by the Bosnian Serb leadership, which "has formally confessed to and apologized for the crime." In reality, the Bosnian Serbs put up a report on Srebrenica in 2002 (Report about Case Srebrenica, Documentation Centre of Republic of Srpska, Bureau of Government of RS for Relations with ICTY,  Banja Luka, September, 2002), but proconsul Paddy Ashdown didn’t like the conclusions and fired a steady stream of  Republica Srpska politicians and threatened them with other forms of retaliation until they produced a report with the proper conclusions. Even in the summer of 2004  Ashdown was axing Republika Srpska leaders who were not cooperating and lining up behind the reigning narrative about Srebrenica. (See David Peterson’s "Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Neocolonial Community," ZNet, June 30, 2004.)  The final coerced, Stalinist effort, Weinberg takes as authentic.

Weinberg refers to my "secondary argument" that the "bodies said to be those of Srebrenica victims have been unearthed from several mass graves around eastern Bosnia rather than a single mass grave at Srebrenica. A look at the ICMP website would tell Herman that this was due to Serb commanders ordering bodies exhumed and reburied…."  I’m not sure what my "primary" argument is for Weinberg, but he has missed it (I urge readers to look at the original, cited earlier, unrecognizable from Weinberg’s stupid misrepresentations and suppressions). On the alleged secondary argument, for Weinberg, if the ICMP (read Bosnian Muslim truth-tellers) say something it must be so, but in fact I had a complex argument on reburials that Weinberg evades or misses (see paragraphs 7-9 of Part 3 of my article). My reference to bodies from eastern Bosnia was only to  show that the 7,500 at Tuzla were by no means all gathered from near Srebrenica, and the notion that they had all been there and were reburied is  surely nonsense.

[In this second round attack Weinberg notes that "many" victims had their hands tied behind their backs (actually, a few hundred), so while this "may not be conclusive proof that all 8,000 were killed...it is certainly suggestive of this."  It has long been acknowledged by everybody studying the subject, including Serb analysts, that several hundred were executed, but evidence that this is true proves or "suggests" nothing except to an irresponsible propagandist willing to offer a beautiful non-sequitur.]

In proving that this genocide-apologist (me) wrongly uses an allegedly standard argument of saying that a majority of the dead were killed in combat, Weinberg cites the ICTY testimony of Momir Nikolic. Two points: First, Nikolic admitted to lying in order to support his plea-bargain, so a second case where Serbs may tell the truth for Weinberg is where a plea-agreement is reached between the ICTY and an indicted Serb in ICTY custody, and the Serb confirms the preferred narrative. (Nikolic’s testimony provided a rare case where the NATO-war-supportive Institute for War and Peace Reports raised a question ab! out the integrity of  the ICTY’s processes: Chris Stephens, "Key Srebrenica Witness Admits Lying: Momir Nikolic’s fictional account of massacre raises questions about plea-bargain system," IWPR, TU 327, 29 September 2003.) Second, even if his testimony were true,  which is very much in doubt, it might show substantial executions but would not in any way prove that a majority of  grave bodies were not killed in combat, a point of logic that eludes Weinberg . [In this version, Weinberg decides to protect his ass by acknowledging that Nikolic did lie, but denying that this affects his main testimony, although how Weinberg knows this about a "fictional account" is not clear, except that Nikolic says what Weinberg knows to be true ex ante. Also, there was support from Erdemovic, another hugely compromised mercenary and plea-bargain witness whose testimony would be thrown out of court in an honest judicial process. Recall the meticulous Weinberg's concern over using "dubious touchstones of veracity."]

Nowhere in this sleazy diatribe does Weinberg discuss the meaning of  genocide and how it applies to the Srebrenica case. A more honest and informed person, General Lewis Mackenzie, who was the first UN commander of peacekeeping forces in Srebrenica, wrote recently in his "The Real Story Behind Srebrenica" (Toronto Globe and Mail, July 14, 2005) that this was not the "black and white event in which the Serbs were solely to blame," and that "it has to be said that, if you’re committing genocide, you don’t let the women go since they are the key to perpetuating the very group you are trying to eliminate." This is too nuanced for party-liner Weinberg, and you can be sure that he is not going to discuss whether or not the huge ethnic cleansing and killing operation in Croatian Krajina that followed the Srebrenica massacre by less than a month was "genocide."

But if he doesn’t isn’t he an apologist for ethnic cleansing and genocide? Or consider this: on April 17th a memorial was held in the Bosnian town of Donja Gradina to remember the Jasenovac massacre of Serbs by Croatians during World War II. That was a real massacre, of an estimated 600,000 or more civilians (the 600,000 figure is given by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which I mention to preclude any snide doubts by the scholarly Weinberg). This memorial, in contrast with that of Srebrenica, was ignored by the Western establishment, obviously for political reasons. But where was Bill Weinberg, so gung-ho with concern over ignoring celebrations of  genocide? Answer: he was busy contributing to the propaganda campaign that justified the war on Serbia and  either began or greased the skids for World War 4.

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