Book Review: "Safari Journalism":
John R. Schindler’s Unholy Terror Versus the
Edward S. Herman
The human capacity for compartmentalization of thought and suppression of inconvenient facts always continues to break new ground in service to evolving political demands. After 9/11, the long U.S. effort to build up al-Qaeda, bin Laden and other Afghan rebel groups (including the Taliban), with Saudi and Pakistani aid, to entice the Soviet Union into Afghanistan, get it bogged down and eventually defeated was finally seen to have backfired. The subsequent turnabout of our progeny after the abrupt
A comparable and closely related case involves the
Schindler, a professor of strategy at the
But its strength lies in the massive detail that he provides on the importance of Islamic radicalism in the Bosnian wars of 1992-1995 and in the ensuing years and the extent to which Western pundits underrated that phenomenon and helped create a false image of a democratic multi-ethnic tolerant Bosnian Muslim leadership. It is amusing, also, because he is a spokesperson for an important part of the U.S. official and intelligence establishment, whose views are almost diametrically opposed to those of the part of the establishment that passionately supported ”humanitarian intervention” in aid of the Bosnian Muslims (and to a lesser extent the Croatians) against the demonized Serbs. This latter faction included the Clinton State Department leaders (Madeleine Albright, Richard Holbrooke), Bill Clinton, Al Gore,
His view on this serious media failure was in accord with that of
Schindler contends that Izetbegovic and his “Leninist style vanguard of Islamists” were possibly the most important force in producing the Bosnian wars and breakup of the country. The Bosnian Serbs tried to come to an accord with Izetbegovic before any fighting started, in 1990, but “the Muslims expressed no interest’ (63); a power-sharing arrangement with the Serbs negotiated in July 1991 which caused Izetbegovic to say “our positions are very close,” collapsed as “Izetbegovic had hardly left the room when he renounced the request,” and his party soon announced that it “would not participate in any power-sharing arrangement with the Serbs” (71). The last ditch effort to prevent a major war in late February 1992 brought all three parties to Lisbon, where they all signed on to an arrangement with a single state that granted substantial autonomy to ethnic regions. But “No sooner than he had given the go-ahead, then Izetbetgovic changed his mind.” As Schindler says, “The Lisbon debacle was the immediate cause of the war” (74).
This withdrawal from the Lisbon agreement was carried out with the encouragement of the U.S. Ambassador, Warrren Zimmerman, and Schindler and other informed commentators contend that Izetbegovic’s refusal to negotiate was based on his conviction and understanding that he would be able to enlist the United States and NATO to achieve his political ends via war. What his SDA (Party of Democratic Action) wanted, according to party ideologist Dzemaludin Latic, was at least 45 percent of Bosnia plus Sandzak (a region in Serbia itself!), an objective “Sarajevo had no chance of achieving without major American military help” (202). General Philippe Morillon, commander of UN forces in
They succeeded, suggesting that Izetbegovic and his
Schindler contends, and gives supportive evidence, that Izetbegovic and his party not only violated more cease fires and other agreements than the Serbs or Croats, but that he was willing to kill or see killed Muslim civilians to score political points (given that with Safari and U.S. official aid these killings would always be attributed to the Serbs), and that the atrocities against enemy civilians and prisoners carried out by his forces, which included 4,000 or more mujahadin, were ruthless and on a large scale.
At the center of Schindler’s analysis is his detailed showing that Izetbegovic was an Islamic fundamentalist, who at no time favored a multi-ethnic tolerant state, but always kept this hidden from the gullible and bamboozled Western pundits, who were eager to believe and careful not to look too closely—he is particularly harsh on Susan Sontag, who “had no detectable insight into the problems of the Balkans,” but “offered increasingly hysterical pronouncements, denouncing Europe as ‘worthless’ for not fighting on behalf of the Muslims.” Schindler traces Izetbegovic’s beliefs from his service to the Nazis in the Handschar Division of the Waffen-SS, through his membership in the Young Muslims, to his Islamic Declaration, to his many trips to, indications of friendship with, and material support from, the Saudis and Khomeini’s Iran, to his welcoming of the thousands of mujahadin fighters into Bosnia from 1992 onward, and to his numerous actions injurious to non-Muslims and Muslims of too secular a tendency. But he always had words and gestures for the likes of Sontag, David Rieff, Ed Vulliamy,
Vulliamy carefully avoids actually quoting from the Islamic Declaration. In her long chapter on Bosnia in “A Problem from Hell” (Basic Books, 2002), Samantha Power never mentions the book; while Rieff quotes from it, not by name, but through the mouth of a Serb, then failing to explain why it is not meaningful. Vulliamy explains Izetbegovic’s serial rejection of peace plans from Lisbon onward as a result of his devotion to a “multi-ethnic republic,” and his belief that any kind of partition would be “impossible without ethnic cleansing” (Seasons in Hell, 67-68)–when in fact he wanted a more favorable partition, with war and ethnic cleansing flowing predictably from his declaration of independence, and as described below, he did a thorough job of removing Serbs from the Sarajevo area.
Izetbegovic never repudiated his Islamic Declaration, and Schindler makes a compelling case that Izetbegovic, while two-faced and evasive, was fundamentally opposed to a democracy and a multi-ethnic state and strove persistently to create an Islamic state run on the Islamic principles put in place by Khomeini in
During and after the war, Sarajevo was subjected to a steady ethnic cleansing—of Serbs by the Muslims—by daily harassment, and regular killings, including numerous murders carried out by Bosnian Muslim private armies, the most deadly “murderous gang” run by one Caco. “SDA [Izetbegovic’s party] gangs did the lion’s share of the work—killing, raping, robbing and looting, designed to produce an all-Muslim Sarajevo, and Caco’s brigade was the most energetic” (Schindler, 104). “It took Izetbegovic a half year to shut down Caco’s gang” after he had been advised of the killings, and he was well aware of Bosnian Muslim managed “concentration camps” in the Sarajevo vicinity (he mentioned them by name in private meetings). Under the 1995 Dayton Agreement the Serb p
But eye aversion, selectivity, and the reiteration of inflated party line charges were central to the Safari project. Massive conflicting evidence was ignored. Naser Oric, the killer commander of the Muslim forces in Srebrenica, who as Schindler points out killed over a thousand Serb civilians in the Srebrenica area, and proudly showed Western journalists videos of beheaded Serbs and bragged about one case where he slaughtered 114 Serbs, does not appear in the index of Vulliamy’s, Rieff’s or Samantha Power’s books. Schindler also provides several dramatic illustrations of slaughters of Croatians and Serbs carried out by Bosnian Muslim mujahadin fighters, but these also fail to make it into the Safari books—only Serb actions (and related photos) are admissible.
For all of these analysts the Bosnian conflict was a case of Serb “genocide,” which Rieff claimed was “all but completed” in 1994. The Safari members have never dealt retrospectively with the findings of the establishment researchers Ewa Tabeau, Jakub Bijak and Mirsad Tokaca, the first two working for the Prosecutor’s Office of the ICTY, Tokaca funded by the Norwegian government, that only some 100,000 people were killed in Bosnia 1992-1995, on all sides, and that the total civilian toll on all sides was in the order of 65,000. The Bosnian civilian toll was under 50,000. During this same time frame several hundred thousand Iraqis died from the “sanctions of mass destruction,” but the Safari brigades were not interested. In fact, in Samantha Power’s book on genocide, “A Problem From Hell,” neither Iraq, Vietnam, Indonesia nor East Timor show up in her index—but she has this long chapter on Bosnia where “genocide” had allegedly taken place! (Power claimed that Bosnian deaths numbered 200,000, but she offered no breakdown as between Muslim, Serb and Croat deaths, nor does she distinguish between deaths of soldiers and civilians. She mentions at one point that George Kenney resigned from the State Department in protest at an insufficiently aggressive policy, but she fails to mention that later on he changed his mind and in April 1995 gave an estimate of Bosnian deaths on all sides in the order of 25,000-60,000.)
And in her study of
It is amusing to see how now, while an al-Qaeda connection is the ultimate proof of villainy in the U.S. polity and media, the awkward fact of Clinton, Holbrooke and the humanitarian interventionists’ supporting the Muslim cause in the Bosnian war, which caused them to accept and even positively encourage an al-Qaeda presence and embedding in Bosnia, is unmentionable. This is that convenient compartmentalization of thought in accord with which aid to and alliance with villains at one point in time can be ignored when we turn against the villains later and want to pretend adherence to a higher morality. This is further illustrated in the work of Samantha Power where, in her recent book, Chasing the Flame (Penguin, 2008), she finally does mentions both al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, but solely in reference to Afghanistan, Indonesia and Iraq, not Bosnia, to which she devoted so much space in her “A Problem From Hell.” This helps keep that old crusade and safari clean even as we now devote attention to the formerly neglected villains.
There are two other ironies here. One is that the Safari propagandists and Bosnia Genocide Lobby almost surely contributed to the ethnic cleansing and killings in Bosnia, 1992-1995, as their one-sided and frenetic campaigning helped Izetbegovic and the Clinton administration fend off a political settlement from Lisbon onward. Their demonization frenzy also contributed to the moral environment that made the Kosovo war and occupation feasible. We may recall, also, that the Kosovo war was carried out, according to Bill Clinton, to create a “tolerant, multi-ethnic democracy” in that province, which was in fact turned into the ethnic cleansing as well as drug and women-trade capital of Europe. The ethnic cleansing in NATO-occupied Kosovo, the greatest in the Balkan wars in proportionate terms, and extending to the Roma as well as Serbs, was explained by David Rieff on the grounds of “revenge.” Enemies cleanse because of blood lust, greed, and plans for a “greater” (
The further irony is that
True patriots do not like to be reminded of these outstanding cases of