Friday, May 25, 2012

Wherefore the Distortions?

On the pages of the Washington Post, Serbophobia tends to be impersonal: just your everyday sneering at nations standing in Empire's way.  Even the famously wrong Richard Cohen sticks to using the standard manual of Serbophobia, hitting the appropriate cliches in order to make a point about supporting interventionism.

Then there is the Washington Times, a paper claiming to be as conservative (i.e. GOP) as the Post is liberal (i.e. Democratic). True enough, over the years, the Times has printed criticism of the Democrats' Balkans policies. And in 2007, they did publish an unusually frank staff editorial condemning the "perception management" in the case of the Fort Dix Six. On the other hand, they employ Jeffrey T. Kuhner.

A regular columnist at the Times, Kuhner can be relied on for a good hysterical rant about the "Evil Serbs" just about anytime. In 2003, he blamed the Serbs for jihad in Bosnia. In 2004, he saw the sky falling when the Serbian Radical Party got the biggest chunk of votes in the election that saw the demise of DOS. Yet the apocalypse he foresaw failed to materialize. Now he's at it again, arguing that the election of Tomislav Nikolic to Serbian presidency is a "vote for war" in the Balkans.

Kuhner's latest screed is simply stuffed with so many factual errors that arguing with them would take up three times his word count: a clever strategy, when letters to the editor are typically limited to 150 words. But at its core is the smear of the newly elected President of Serbia as "neo-fascist", and the Serbs themselves as Nazi Germany reborn.

Per Kuhner:
"Mr. Nikolic embodies the worst forms of Serbian nationalism, whose ideological roots go back to the “Chetniks” - the term for Serbian royalists - of World War II. Led by Drazen Mihailovic, the Chetniks formed a racist far-right-wing movement that sought to forge an ethnically pure Great Serb empire incorporating Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, most of Bosnia and large chunks of Croatia. Allied to Benito Mussolini’s fascist Italy, the Chetniks engaged in murderous ethnic cleansing, slaughtering tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims, Croatians and Kosovar Albanians." (emphasis added)
Where to begin? First off, Kuhner doesn't even know the proper party line, which is that "Serbian nationalism" supposedly dates back to the 19th century (and Ilija Garashanin's "Nachertanie"). The whole "Greater Serbia" claim was manufactured by Austria-Hungary in the early 1900s, to create a pretext for a war against the independent principality that obstructed its plans for hegemony in the Balkans (a war Vienna finally got in 1914, but ended up not liking very much).

Kuhner can't even get Mihailovic's name right - it's Dragoljub, shortened to "Drazha", not "Drazen". "Chetnik" is actually a Serbian term for a guerrilla, dating back to the conflicts of the early 1900 (in particular the 1912-13 Balkan Wars). Mihailovic's forces were actually the Royal Yugoslav Army, a legitimate resistance movement fighting against the Axis occupation. The claim they fought for an ethnically pure Serbian state is a lie concocted by Communist propaganda, as are the allegations of their mass murder of innocent civilians. That was actually the policy of the Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia; established in April 1941, it included most of present-day Croatia, Bosnia and parts of Serbia, and engaged in wholesale genocide of Serbs, Jews and Roma.

Kuhner doesn't mention Nazi Croatia even once. Yet he can't possibly believe it's irrelevant, since he claims the "Chetniks" were allied with Mussolini's Italy. What actually happened is that there was a truce between the Royalists and the Italian troops stationed in southern "Croatia" (but not in Montenegro or Albanian-occupied Kosovo) - but only because Mussolini's men actually opposed the Croatians' mass murders. Why would they fight the Italians, when the Italians were trying to prevent genocide?

So "fascist" was the royalist resistance, Mihailovic was decorated by President Truman, and his men rescued over 500 Allied aviators (including the men who bombed Serb civilians), at great cost in lives. Kept under wraps for decades so as not to offend the Communists in Yugoslavia, the story only recently came to light, even as its heroic protagonists pass away.

But none of this fits Kuhner's narrative, so it isn't mentioned. He barrels on:
"As Yugoslavia disintegrated in the 1990s, Belgrade launched brutal wars of aggression against Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. More than 250,000 were killed and nearly 2 million ethnically cleansed."

Here "disintegration" serves to sanitize the violent and illegal secessions by the above-named entities, accompanied by wholesale murder of Serbs and the resurrection of Nazi-era symbols and policies. To cover this up, propagandists concocted the story of "Serb aggression" and deliberately invoked Nazi imagery to defame the Serbs. Kuhner recycles the old, debunked figure of 250,000 dead, and doesn't count one million Serbs who were ethnically cleansed.

He then proceeds to talk of "death camps" in Croatia and Bosnia, quoting outlandish claims of alleged survivors - whereas even the Hague Inquisition (established for the purpose of blaming the Serbs for everything) has shied from such allegations. Even the most outspoken professional Serbophobes haven't dared to claim that Ovcara was a "death camp" for 2000 people, as opposed to a farm where about 200 Croatian POWs were executed. Until Kuhner, that is.

Kuhner's diatribe is basically another example of what happens when the official distortions of WW2 history are allowed to go unchallenged: we see a triumph of Hitler's allies and Hitler's policies, while those opposing them get smeared as "fascists".

Why would Kuhner engage in these distortions of history, so extensive they cannot possibly be accidental or a product of ignorance? He has a degree in history, and even taught it for a couple of years, if his Wikipedia page is correct. But the page also says he was "born in Montreal, Canada to Croatian immigrant parents."

The only conclusion I can draw from Kuhner's op-ed - which is just the latest in a long series of Serbophobic diatribes - is that he's harping on about Serbs-as-Nazis in order to cover for the real Nazi allies: the very same Croats, "Bosnians" and ethnic Albanians claiming to be victims of "Serb aggression."

If that's "conservatism" then Edmund Burke is spinning in his grave.


Suvorov said...

It is precisely for the reason stated in your last sentence that in the reality-based community it is increasing becoming a sign of mauvais gout to use terms such as "liberal", "conservative", "left-wing", "right-wing" etc. These terms are if not outright meaningless these days, then certainly do not mean what they did only two decades ago. If the supposedly "conservative" PM of Britain just attempted to outlaw wearing crucifixes, then who is "liberal"? For as John Laughland pointed out, only very few decades ago it would be unthinkable for the supposedly "conservative" Republican President of the United States to speak openly in Trotskyite slang, calling for permanent global revolution, as Bush the Lesser did. In other words, today's "conservatives" used to be known as Communists not long ago.

Witch-king of Angmar said...

Julia Gorin has heaps of information on Kuhner, Washington Times' resident ustasha, as she calls him.

Zman said...

Hey doesn't what's happening in Syria remind you of Bosnia more and more?? crazy.. They just a bunch of jihadists slaughter men women and children(same sarajevo and srebrenica) and they are claiming it was the assad goverment.. exactly the way they blamed mladic and the serbs in Bosnia when later they wrote books admitting(david owen) they knew all allong that the jihadists carried out those slaughters. and you got CNN giving referrence to srebrenica which we know is fraud but it tells you they are setting up another big time massacre to be blamed on the assad goverment so they can intervene on "humanatarain" needs.

Gray Falcon said...

Julia Gorin also did an excellent write-up of Kuhner's rant, also addressing the whole "Polish death camp" flap by the Emperor and Kuhner's reaction to it. Worth reading.

Eugene Costa said...

"Polish death camps" certainly backfired but pardon the conclusion that it was no slip of the tongue and quite deliberate--whether by Obama or one of his Neo-Con consultants and sleeper speech-writers, whose movement to the Democrats began with Perle's jumping the ship of Bush.

The wider context is perhaps less Yugoslavia specifically than the German submarines that, predictably, the Israelis will inevitably outfit with nuclear-tipped missiles, don't you think?

At any rate, a deeper analysis would take too much time, ranging from the sophistries of Leo Strauss' Athens and Jerusalem to the supposed fine crafting Obama--much cruder in his American and lawyerly fashion even than the crude and vulgar Strauss and not up even to the indictment of sophist--supposedly lavishes on his own and every public word.

One will also--after Cicero--not refer Deleuze's and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus and what they have to say about what is translated as Capitalism's necessary "flow of stupidity."

As for Burke, Marx formaldehyded and pinned that specimen ages ago in a passage that deserves to be quoted, and in which he in turn appealed to the authority of an admitted Tory, a certain Rev. Tucker, whom Marx also characterized as otherwise an honorable and reliable fellow:

"After this, one can judge of the good faith of the 'execrable political cant-monger,' Edmund Burke, when he called the expression, 'labouring poor,' — 'execrable political cant.' This sycophant who, in the pay of the English oligarchy, played the romantic laudator temporis acti against the French Revolution, just as, in the pay of the North American Colonies, at the beginning of the American troubles, he had played the Liberal against the English oligarchy, was an out and out vulgar bourgeois. 'The laws of commerce are the laws of Nature, and therefore the laws of God.' (E. Burke, l. c., pp. 31, 32.) No wonder that, true to the laws of God and of Nature, he always sold himself in the best market. A very good portrait of this Edmund Burke, during his liberal time, is to be found in the writings of the Rev. Mr. Tucker. Tucker was a parson and a Tory, but, for the rest, an honourable man and a competent political economist. In face of the infamous cowardice of character that reigns today, and believes most devoutly in 'the laws of commerce,' it is our bounden duty again and again to brand the Burkes, who only differ from their successors in one thing — talent.

Karl Marx Capital I.31 n.13 (tr. Aveling & Moore).

In the US, naturally, most who demonize Marx have not read him extensively, save perhaps The Communist Manifesto.

Is there at work in other climes and time zones, formerly Communist, something similar to what the Germans have done to Goethe and the American schoolmarms did to Shakespeare and Longfellow--that is, make them unreadable in later life by their young charges by mind-numbing rote at too young an age and by equally mind-numbing and uncritical reverence?

Perhaps it is time for some of these to reread Marx again as adults and with critical understanding?

Gray Falcon said...

Eugene, I've read what Marx had to say about Slavs (Serbs in particular, but also Russians) following the 1848 revolutions. Even if I didn't think his notion of polylogism was an absolute abomination, I would refuse to have anything to do with him on the basis of such writings alone. He hated us as much as Hitler hated the Jews.