Response to “Raoul Djukanovic”

Response to "Raoul Djukanovic"

Edward S. Herman and David Peterson

Reading Raoul Djukanovic’s comments dated November 23 and posted below our "Open Letter to Amnesty International,"[1] we were struck by the audacity of the falsehoods.  Djukanovic takes us to task over the importance of "factual accuracy" where the breakup of Yugoslavia is at issue, but his contributions show repeatedly that he places no faith at all in fact or accuracy, and is quite comfortable with even the most gross distortions when they suit his purpose.  He clearly places his faith in a set of accepted truths that need to be reiterated endlessly, in any venue where The Truth is challenged.  Chief among these accepted truths is something called the "Bosnia Genocide."  One either affirms the truth of this "Bosnia Genocide" or one is labeled a "genocide denier" and the like ("revisionist" being another favorite charge), the resonance with the Holocaust (with a capital ‘H’) and with "Holocaust denial" deliberately invoked.  Moreover, our interlocutor’s use of this alleged genocide in different public forums shows him to be a de facto member of what we call the Bosnia Genocide Lobby.  This loose-knit lobby, parts of which have been financed by George Soros and various Western governments over the years, has produced its own journals and websites, and its function—like that of our interlocutor—is to reinforce a party-line related to the breakup of Yugoslavia, its causes, its victims and villains, and its aftermath, and to attack serious dissenters from the party-line.     


Let us begin with our interlocutor’s name.  We do not believe that "Raoul Djukanovic" is this person’s real name—a suspicion deepened by the fact that the photo that "Raoul Djukanovic" uses when posting at the U.K.-based Media Lens website is easily recognizable as that of the late U.S. writer Hunter S. Thompson.[2]  We also suspect that our interlocutor’s real name is Daniel Simpson, a man who once reported on the former Yugoslavia for Reuters (May 2001 through March 2002), and then the New York Times (May 2002 through March 2003).  After March 2003, this Daniel Simpson’s byline disappeared from the archives of establishment news sources, at least in relation to events in the former Yugoslavia and its successor states.  Nonetheless, we will respect the wishes of our interlocutor, and address the pseudonym "Raoul Djukanovic."


The ostensible purpose of Djukanovic’s response is to "disentangle" the "convoluted themes" in our "Open Letter to AI."  But our purpose there was to critique the complaint submitted to Amnesty International by The Guardian – Observer‘s Ed Vulliamy over AI’s selection of Noam Chomsky to deliver its October 30, 2009 Stand Up For Justice lecture in Belfast. The main focus of this critique involved our showing that Vulliamy’s account (as well as the account of his colleagues with the British media) of the Fikret Alic episode at the Trnopolje camp on August 5, 1992, was false and misleading and has been ever since.  Indeed, addressing and correcting this one matter took up at least 40% of our Open Letter.  As ITN reporter Penny Marshall explained in the Sunday Times, after ITN’s images of Fikret Alic went viral (our phrase, not Marshall’s), "British newspapers were calling for military intervention; within 20 minutes of the [ITN] report being re-broadcast on American television, George Bush promised to press for a United Nations resolution authorising use of force."[3]  As far as journalism is concerned—indeed, the "journalism of attachment"—this was the British reporters’ real achievement at Trnopolje.


So how does Djukanovic deal with this issue?  He refers to it in a single sentence near the end of his reply: "As for Fikret Alic and all the rest, from the verbiage above an ignorant reader could be excused for wondering whether anyone was killed or raped in a Serb camp."  Djukanovic thus dodges the issues involved in our debunking of the Fikret Alic photo, but implies that somehow we were denying the existence of Bosnian Serb-run displaced persons- and detention- and POW-camps.  We have never done that.  However, we did mention that the Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats (as well as the Croats within the Republic of Croatia) also ran displaced persons- and detention- and POW-camps, and one of the tactics of the Bosnia Genocide Truthers is to ignore these camps while focusing hysterically on and inflating the Bosnian Serb-run camps.  Djukanvic’s real task here is to perpetuate ignorance about the wars that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia, under the guise of protecting and preserving The Truth about them.  No deviationism from that Truth of exclusive and unchallengeable Serb villainy is permissible.  Gauging by the multiple venues where we have observed his work over the years, Djukanovic (a.k.a. Daniel Simpson) never once departs from this task.

Although Djukanovic mentions our Open Letter, he does not take more than a passing interest in it: His real target is our 2007 analysis, "The Dismantling of Yugoslavia,"[4] specifically its section 5, where we dealt with the fate of the Srebrenica "safe area" population, and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  (See the Appendix below, where we reproduce section 5 in its entirety.)  Djukanovic quotes the following passage from this 2007 analysis, but he omits 28 words from the original text, which we have reinserted in what follows (denoted by the use of CAPS):

The claim that 8,000 Bosnian Muslim males had been executed there was based on a Red Cross news alert that its office in Tuzla had fielded 8,000 missing person requests: 5,000 for "individuals who apparently fled the enclave before it fell," plus 3,000 for "persons reportedly arrested by the Bosnian Serb forces."  ALTHOUGH AT THAT POINT IN MID-SEPTEMBER 1995 THERE WERE ONLY A FEW REPORTS OF THE KIND OF OPPORTUNISTIC KILLINGS THAT ACCOMPANY WAR, ALONG WITH ALLEGATIONS OF MASS EXECUTIONS, in a remarkable propaganda coup the thousands of deaths from fighting and escapees were forgotten and the 8,000 quickly became victims of execution and genocide.

Notice the phrase that Djukanovic omitted: "AT THAT POINT IN MID-SEPTEMBER 1995…." Unambiguously, our point here was about the origin of the 8,000-figure, which came from the International Committee of the Red Cross’s effort during wartime to identify and track missing persons in Bosnia – Herzegovina.  On September 13, 1995, the Red Cross reported that, after it had eliminated 2,000 duplicate tracking requests for missing persons, the "remaining 8,000 requests [fell] into two categories: about 5,000 concern individuals who apparently fled the [Srebrenica] enclave before it fell, while the remaining 3,000 relate to persons reportedly arrested by the Bosnian Serb forces."[5]  Hence, we also wrote (with another passage omitted by Djukanovic again denoted by CAPS):



FURTHERMORE, UNLIKE OTHER CASES WHERE EARLY INFLATED AND SPECULATIVE ESTIMATES OF DEATHS WERE GRADUALLY REVISED DOWNWARD IN LIGHT OF EMERGING HARD EVIDENCE—AS WITH ESTIMATES OF KOSOVO ALBANIANS KILLED DURING NATO’S BOMBING WAR, OR THE DEATHS AT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER ON 9/11—this initial 8,000 figure for the missing, now executed, males of Srebrenica has never been revised from its initial very problematic level.  It has remained firm and unchallengeable, despite the fact that nothing close to confirming evidence has been forthcoming.



Djukanovic objects that we have written this without showing the "whereabouts of however many of the 8,000 [we] think weren’t killed, or…how they died if they weren’t executed."  But this is both false and, more important, misses our point: Namely, that the list of 8,000 missing persons originally came from the Red Cross, that this 8,000-figure referred to the non-duplicate tracking requests for missing persons then in the Red Cross’s database but did not refer to deaths at all, and that the 8,000-figure most assuredly was not based on any evidence of executions.  In fact, as late as November 2003, the "total number of individuals located in the Srebrenica mass grave sites" was reported by ICTY Prosecution expert Dean Manning to have been 2,570and this number did not distinguish between civilians and armed combatants, or between those killed in battle and those executed.[6]  But for the establishment media, the 8,000-figure was already in wide usage as referring to executions at the time Manning testified to 2,570 bodies found, and this 8,000-figure has become even more firmly entrenched in the years that followed.


As regards Djukanovic’s claim that we fail to explain what happened to the 8,000 "if they weren’t executed," this assumes the 8,000-figure is authentic and meaningful, and attempts to displace the burden of proof for executions (in contrast to combat-related deaths) from himself and his allies onto others.  But he is also wrong inasmuch as we have repeatedly explained that as columns of some 12,000 to 15,000 Bosnian Muslim males undertook to break-through from Srebrenica towards Tuzla, fierce fighting with Bosnian Serbs occurred often, with estimates of Bosnian Muslim deaths running from 1,000 to 3,000, with the Bosnian Muslim Chief of the Supreme Command Staff General Enver Hadzihasanovic testifying at the ICTY that he could "claim for certainty that 2,628 members, both soldiers and commanding officers, members of the 28th Division, were killed" during this retreat,[7] and the Bosnian Serbs admitting between 300 and 500 deaths on their side.[8]  Hundreds of Bosnian Muslims also fled from Srebrenica eastward, across the Drina River into Serbia itself, and several thousand soldiers successfully reached Muslim-controlled territory (3,175 on Hadzihasanovic’s estimate), where they were reintegrated into the Bosnian Muslim army.  (The Bosnian Muslim authorities even refused Red Cross requests for the names and numbers of those who safely reached Bosnian Muslim territory, cruel to their relatives left behind, but useful for keeping the list of missing as high as possible.[9])


Djukanovic of course trusts any list referring to the 8,000-figure as authentic, and assumes that virtually everyone on such a list was a Bosnian Muslim male civilian from the Srebrenica "safe area" population, killed execution-style at the hands of Bosnian Serbs.  On the other hand, Bosnian Serb lists of their dead and missing in the Srebrenica area don’t interest him, and he would certainly not trust Bosnian Serbs estimates put forth in like manner.  Thus Djukanovic is not a "denier" as regards massacres of Bosnian Serbs, nor an apologist for "ethnic cleansing" even as he ignores the huge cleansing of Serbs during Operation Flash and Operation Storm in 1995, and the cleansing of Serbs from Kosovo beginning in June 1999 under NATO’s occupation—and for one simple reason: The Serbs and their apologists are not truth-tellers (besides which, the Serbs had it coming).  But might not the Bosnian Muslims have had a wartime political interest in inflating alleged atrocity stories and the number of Bosnian Muslims killed?  Didn’t the Bosnian Muslim leadership ever lie to the foreign media about the scale of their wartime dead, and weren’t there incidents in which they likely killed their own for political advantage?  Incidents such as the February 1994 attack on the Markale marketplace in Sarajevo, and the August 1995 attack on a narrow street adjacent to the same marketplace, both killing many dozens of civilians, both "help[ing] to shape a manifestly pro-Muslim point of view" in Western political and media capitals, in Cees Wiebes’ words, and both "serv[ing] as the catalyst for NATO retribution from the air," as U.S. Lieutenant Colonel John Sray observed, the August 1995 incident leading to NATO’s largest out-of-area bombing campaign up till that point "just thirty-nine hours" after it occurred, as David Binder reported?[10]  There has always been substantial evidence that points to Bosnian Muslim responsibility for both of these incidents; and Wiebes reports that in confidential interviews he has conducted, "American intelligence officers admitted that the ABiH [Bosnian Muslim Army] had taken responsibility for [the latter] incident."[11]  But none of these points will ever arise for Djukanovic. 

Djukanovic objects that we "insinuat[e] that however many were killed at Srebrenica, most of them weren’t civilians," and he objects to our claim that "It is likely that more civilians were killed [during Croatia's Operation Storm] than following the fall of Srebrenica."  But we don’t insinuate anything—we are perfectly forthright that we believe more civilians were killed during Operation Storm than in the aftermath of the fall of Srebrenica. We note that Bosnian Muslim women and children were bussed-out of Srebrenica by the Bosnian Serbs, and that only one female body was found in the near-Srebrenica graves; this means that Serb killings, whether in combat or execution-style, were of military age men.  The Croats didn’t bus Croatian Serb women and children out the Krajina prior to Operation Storm, and several hundred Croatian Serb women and children were killed.  As we wrote in 2007, "The asymmetry in how the Srebrenica massacre and Operation Storm have entered the Western canon is enlightening…. Srebrenica is almost never mentioned without defining it as Europe’s worst massacre since WW II, whereas Operation Storm is virtually never described as Europe‘s largest ethnic cleansing since the war.  Once again, political bias on the worthiness and unworthiness of the victims dictates attention and indignation"—a dichotomy based on whom the perpetrators were: The Enemy (Bosnian Serbs) or allies and clients (Croats and Bosnian Muslims).[12] Djukanovic never once tries to cope with these comparative numbers and the kind of implications that we draw from them.  For him, it is much easier to imply deviousness and to rely on everybody recognizing The Truth.

The history of the wars that accompanied the breakup of the former Yugoslavia is like a "Holy Issue in England," as Noam Chomsky recently wrote, and we agree.[13]  But this religion has also given birth to a cult that exists to preserve and protect the ruling orthodox version of these wars, and to attack  anyone with the temerity to challenge its basic tenets.  Thus, wherever there arises a serious challenge to the orthodoxy, figures such as Djukanovic (et al.) can be found lambasting the challengers.  His (and their) repeated concern with the sanctity of the 8,000-figure in relation to the Srebrenica massacre, and his charge that we misrepresent the "known facts about who initiated a war of pre-emptive aggression" in the former Yugoslavia, rank among the most fundamental tenets of the orthodoxy.  In its condensed form, the orthodox version of the breakup of Yugoslavia affirms that:

The former Yugoslavia broke-up violently, the way that it did, because by no later than August 1, 1991, Slobodan Milosevic and a number of other ethnic Serb individuals entered into a joint criminal enterprise the purpose of which was the creation of a Greater Serbia (or a single unitary territory belonging to ethnic Serbs alone), and the means these co-perpetrators adopted to achieve their purpose entailed the forcible and permanent removal of the majority of non-Serbs (predominantly Muslims, Croats, and Albanians) from this territory, and included murder and rape, the destruction of property, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even genocide.[14]

Djukanovic assumes that this version of history is valid, and in his November 22 comment he attacks us for misrepresenting it.  But he doesn’t support this with any actual facts, and while he focuses on our 2007 Monthly Review article, where we provide extensive facts to the contrary and even show that the ICTY’s  Prosecution eventually conceded that Milosevic never sought to create a "Greater Serbia,"[15] Djukanovic doesn’t attempt to refute any of our points. His modus operandi depends on the mere repetition of establishment talking-points, mere evasion whenever and wherever repetition won’t work—and, of course, smears across the board.


Djukanovic’s MO against Diana Johnstone—one of the arch-villains of the Bosnia Genocide Lobby—is the same.  Djukanovic writes that in the disputed profile of Chomsky that was written by Emma Brockes and published by The Guardian back in October 2005,[16] Chomsky perhaps didn’t use the term "massacre" with quotation marks around the term, but the practice of using quotation marks is a "fetish of Diana Johnstone whose work [Chomsky] endorses," although her work is "inaccurate and misleading…."  Readers of Media Lens can be sure Djukanovic will not stop to give a single illustration of Johnstone’s alleged inaccuracies, and his implication that Johnstone’s "fetish" is deriding or denying a Srebrenica massacre is an outright lie.  In her book Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions,[17] Johnstone’s discussion of Srebrenica never denies a massacre, but puts it in context, something that the Bosnia Genocide Lobby cannot tolerate.  Johnstone’s other defects are that her book is very scholarly, does not repeat the ruling orthodoxy’s version of the relevant history (though her book does give this history its due), and is very hard for the Lobby’s Truth-enforcers to deal with—so Djukanovic resorts to simple assertions of its being "inaccurate and misleading," and his fabrication about her "fetish."

In a separate comment at the Media Lens website dated November 26, Djukanovic writes that "[I]t is untrue that journalists ‘retreated from their 1999 claim that there had been a "genocide" in Kosovo’, since next to none ever claimed there had been one."  With this he is re-opening a previous debate at Media Lens, based on a March 2006 Media Alert by the Editors,[18] and a reply to this Media Alert that took issue with its correct and very detailed findings.[19]  In contending that "next to [no one] ever claimed" that "genocide" was occurring in Kosovo during 1999, Djukanovic relies on a ludicrous hair-splitting technique that distinguishes between (a) claims that the Serbs were actually committing genocide against the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo in 1999, and (b) claims that the 1999 U.S.-led war against Serbia prevented the Serbs from committing genocide.[20]  But what really mattered was the simple use of the invidious ‘G’-word in relation to events inside Kosovo during the year leading up to NATO’s military assault on Serbia in March 1999—and the greatly  escalated use of the word during the bombing war itself.  Thus in 1998-1999, propaganda about "genocide" in Kosovo played a similar role in selling NATO’s war as did propaganda about Iraq’s "weapons of mass destruction" and ties to Al Qaeda in selling the U.S.-U.K. war in 2002-2003; "genocide" (or the threat of "genocide") was the "intelligence and facts" that were then being "fixed around the policy" (in the words of the notorious Downing Street Memo dated July 23, 2002). 

A study of five U.S. print publications showed that they used the word genocide 220 times in relation to Kosovo in 1998-1999 (but only 18 times for Iraq suffering under the sanctions of mass destruction from 1991 through 1999, where the death toll exceeded that of Kosovo by better than 20 to 1).[21]  Among the "next to none" we may cite U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, U.K. Defense Minister George Robertson, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping—and a group of five British intellectuals who published an Open Letter in The Observer on April 4, 1999 that stated: "As the genocide unfolds in Kosovo, the need to intensify and speed up the military action to halt it becomes ever more imperative…. The first priority is to arm the KLA without delay, as the only way to halt Milosevic’s genocide."[22]  In short, Djukanovic’s assertion that "next to" no one ever claimed that "genocide" was occurring in Kosovo back in 1999 is yet another gross falsehood.  As the astute critic of wartime propaganda, Phillip Knightly, once wrote:

The atrocity story is a tried and tested way of arousing hatred.  It fortifies the mind of the nation with "proof" of the depravity of the enemy and his cruel and degenerate conduct of his war….This is exactly what happened in Kosovo.
President Milosevic, from being a pragmatic leader that the West could do business with, became a new Genghis Khan and, significantly, a new Hitler. This link with the Second World War, a war for Britain of national survival, has strong emotional appeal.  So all those in government who supported the NATO war, from the Prime Minister down, began to pepper their speeches with words like "Holocaust" and "genocide" (on whose PR advice, one wonders?) until the idea was established that the new Hitler, Milosevic, was guilty not just of atrocities but of genocide against the Kosovar Albanians, and that a new Holocaust was in the making.[23]

As repeated recipients of the charge of "genocide deniers" (and the like) whenever the fate of the Srebrenica "safe area" population is at issue, we also want to say a few words about the "genocide" decisions, first in the case of the ICTY v. Radislav Krstic (2001) and all subsequent ICTY judgments that build on this precedent, and then in the reiteration of this precedent by the International Court of Justice in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro (2007).[24]  Incredibly, the Krstic Judgment ruled that in killing "only the [Bosnian Muslim] men of military age&

Leave a comment