Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mustafa's Genocide

Mustafa Ceric, head of the Islamic Religious Community in Bosnia, likes to travel around the world and pose as a "moderate" and "tolerant" Muslim. His latest junket was in Paris, where he traveled last week on the invitation of David de Rotschild, to take part in a conference dubbed "Projet Aladin" (the Aladdin Project). Apparently, this was a gathering of some two hundred political and academic personalities from the Islamic world dedicated to promoting Jewish-Muslim dialogue "based upon mutual acquaintance, respect and refusal to deny and diminish Holocaust."

I know this because of a press release posted on an obscure news portal, which also listed the hosts of the event (French ex-president Chirac, German ex-chancellor Schroeder, prince Hassan of Jordan, ex-president of Indonesia Wahid, and UNESCO), and included a statement issued by the participants, clearly aimed at Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's constant disputing of the Holocaust.

But the event gave Ceric the opportunity to make the preposterous claim that:

"Muslims and Jews have a joint experience of persecution and genocide in Europe: both were expelled from Spain (Endelus) in the fifteenth century, with the Sephardic Jews finding a safe haven in Sarajevo, which is best witnessed by the Sarajevo Holy Haggadah, and both suffered a genocide in the twentieth century, Jews from the Nazis and Bosnian Muslims from the Serbian aggressors."

The claim that what happened in Bosnia was a genocide absolutely qualifies as "diminishing the Holocaust." A savage ethnic conflict that killed two percent of the country's entire population (including combat casualties) compares to a campaign of mass murder conducted by the Nazis, how exactly? Oh, I forget, the death of "up to 8000" (the actual number is still a mystery!) Muslim fighters in Srebrenica is apparently a "genocide" on par with the Shoah!

There is also a hidden temptation for the Jews in Ceric's claim: Muslims will stop denying the Shoah if the Jews would agree that the Muslims were victims of genocide, too! Preposterous? I think so. But could it happen? Wouldn't be the first time the Jews bought into Muslim propaganda:

We outwitted three big Jewish organizations - B'Nai Brith Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Committee, and the American Jewish Congress. We suggested to them to publish an advertisement in the New York Times and to organize demonstrations outside the U.N. This was a tremendous coup. When the Jewish organizations entered the game on the side of the (Muslim) Bosnians, we could promptly equate the Serbs with the Nazis in the public mind.

- James Harff, executive for PR agency Ruder Finn, to French journalist Jacques Merlino, 1993 (source)

One reason this is particularly galling is that the Muslims of Bosnia took part in the Holocaust. During the war, Bosnia was part of the "Independent State of Croatia" (NDH), and Muslims were considered "Croats of Islamic faith." The Ustasha regime ruling the NDH seized the property of Bosnian Jews and sent most of them to death camps like Jasenovac. Many Muslims took part in this infernal endeavor, and were rewarded by the Jews' property. Others answered the call of the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, and allied with Hitler.

Completing the travesty is that the Ustashas' principal target were the Serbs, of whom they killed hundreds of thousands! Yet the mass murder of Serbs isn't a "genocide," oh no - Srebrenica is!

The Sarajevo Haggadah, which Ceric mentions, had to be hidden during the war from the "tolerant" NDH authorities. Muslims claim they saved it from destruction. Croats say it was a Croat who did it. In any event, the book was saved. But what happened to the Jews?

Few remain in Bosnia today. Most have long ago emigrated to Israel, which Mustafa Ceric's "brothers" in Hamas and Hezbollah desire to destroy. Yet somehow, the fate of the Bosnian Jews and the Muslims' ties to the Nazis and the modern-day jihadists don't seem to matter to ex-politicians and UN bureaucrats. What they care about is being lectured by this "moderate" and "tolerant" mufti about the "joint experience of persecution", while he recycles vile propaganda about the "Serb genocide" and harangues against "Islamophobia."

We should rightly point a questioning finger at the organizers of this travesty for putting another brick into the wall of Eurabia. One could, and should, rightly condemn the Serbian officialdom, which has continued to ignore the genocide during WW2 even though the Communist regime that suppressed any inquiry into it has been gone for two decades now. None of that excuses Ceric for what he said, or what he's been doing for years - but it explains why he's been getting away with it.

"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me," goes the saying that Emperor Bush once famously mangled. When it comes to Bosnia, the Jews have been fooled once already. Now Mustafa Ceric is trying to fool them again.

Holding on

My post from the other day on mixed marriages in Bosnia caught the attention of the Witch-King, and I thank him for it.

His conclusion made me think some more:

They may have retained their lives but lost their homeland and anything resembling an identity. There was very little option for them but to find another place to live, and start rebuilding from scratch, not only in a material but in spiritual sense as well.

The devil of it is, they aren't the only ones. All of us who've been through the 1990s have had to deal with this to some extent. Whether they want to admit it or not, many people's identities were tied into Yugoslavia, socialism, and Tito's cult of personality. Some folks still haven't got over any of them. Others found it easier to slip into the new, custom-made identities furnished by opportunistic politicians. And a few have chosen the thorny path of rediscovering what it truly meant to be a Serb, Croat, Muslim, or whatever.

Whoever it was that said that "you can never go home again" was right. For many people, not just those of mixed ancestry, Yugoslavia was home. That place is no more. There is something else, many something-elses, there now. Things may still look the same, sound, or smell, or taste the same. But the same they are not.

I can understand why many people choose to remember Yugoslavia fondly. Trying to build a new life in a foreign country can be frustrating at times, so to those who left memories are a way to cope. And those that stayed live in a world of cronyism, "transition" and crime, where all the seedy aspects of socialism seem to have endured, and none of the things that made it bearable: unimpeded travel, annual seaside vacations, and a country in which everyone had a job, a car and a place to live (and let's not quibble about the quality of any of those). Time burnishes their memory of Yugoslavia so that only the good things remain. This romantic vision of the past gives them hope that the world wasn't always bleak, cruel and capricious, and that things can be good again.

And they can. They might. But nothing can ever be the way it was.

I'm still trying to decide whether those of us who understand this are better off for it. I don't think I'll ever really know.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Strangers in Their Own Land

Though it may have appeared that way, Friday's post was not actually a response to Asma Ishak. I just used her invective as an illustration of projection, prejudice and name-calling that passes for internet debate these days. I've learned long since not to get into arguments with trolls; unlike them, I have better things to do with my time.

One of the commenters, however, was curious about the intermarriage of "Serbs and Bosnians" (sic - she meant Muslims, obviously) that Ishak had mentioned. There is this myth that Bosnia was a harmonious, perfectly integrated multi-cultural paradise that evil Serb nationalists brutally destroyed, forcing the Muslims to rediscover their identity. Those who believe this have it precisely backwards, as the subtitle of Alija Izetbegovic's "Islamic Declaration" (PDF) was "A Programme for the Islamization of Muslims." What better way to become the undisputed leader of Bosnia's Muslims and implement an Islamic agenda than to claim they were all in danger of perishing from "Serb aggressors" and their alleged "genocide"?

It is true enough that there were many mixed marriages in Bosnia. Previously, intermarriage required one of the spouses to convert to the other's faith, so they could be married in a church or a mosque. After 1945, however, the couple simply had to take two witnesses to a court clerk. With Communists actively discouraging religious practice (though not banning it outright, except for Party members), the faith of the children was a non-issue.

Few people in the countryside intermarried, though; it remained a characteristic of urban centers. The collapse of Communism and the rise of ethnic parties put mixed-marriage families under a lot of pressure. People found themselves sidelined because they had the "wrong" spouse. Children were pressured to "choose a side." Some did. Others packed up and left. Many found refuge in Serbia, where people were comparatively less obsessed with ethnic purity than in either Bosnia or Croatia. In fact, Serbia remains the most ethnically heterogeneous Balkans state even now - while in other republics, from Slovenia to Macedonia, the trend has been homogenization.

Official Truth has it that the Serbs engaged in "ethnic cleansing" while the Muslims were multi-ethnic and tolerant (Croats are somehow not mentioned at all). While the "Bosnian Army" did start out with a number of non-Muslims in its ranks (Serbs, Croats and those of mixed heritage who believed Izetbegovic's propaganda), that number dwindled down to nearly none by late 1993. From the army to the state, everything was becoming Islamized. When the reis-ul-ulema (head of the Islamic religious community) Mustafa Ceric called the children of mixed parentage "genetic garbage," there was no longer room for doubt.

Even though Annex VII of the Dayton peace treaty contained the "right of return" of refugees to their homes, and in 2000 a set of quotas was imposed to ensure representation of Muslims and Croats in the Serb Republic (RS) and Serbs in the Muslim-Croat Federation, both entities remain overwhelmingly ethnically homogeneous. People would return, reclaim their property, then sell it or exchange it and move back to areas where their own were the majority. While the RS has meticulously observed the quota system, the Federation never bothered, and somehow the "international community" never cared, either.

After the war, there were several immigration programs (notably in the U.S. and Canada) favoring mixed-marriage families. Not surprisingly, most people seized the opportunity. There is still some intermarriage in Bosnia. By and large, however, for those who found a mate in a different community it was much more bearable to become Americans, Canadians, or Australians than to be strangers in their own land.

Friday, April 17, 2009

What's in a Name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
~ Romeo & Juliet, Act II, scene 2

Poor Juliet. So right - and yet so wrong. For while it perhaps ought to be as she said, in reality names do matter. Names are one of the ways we perceive things around us. A rose is supposed to smell sweet; how many would give the benefit of the doubt to something dubbed "stinkrot"?

Names have power. If name-calling weren't so successful a tactic in arguments, would there be a Godwin's Law? I can't recall if it was Orwell who said that whoever controls the language controls the terms of the debate, but it's certainly true. Add to this that facts have increasingly taken a back seat to feelings - it doesn't matter whether something someone said is true, but rather how passionately they feel about it - and labeling becomes the way to win an argument without actually arguing at all. As long as you frame the question along the lines of "Do you still beat your wife?" it doesn't matter what the answer is.

Revealing his identity in today's column, "Spengler" of Asia Times explained the reason why he embraced a pseudonym years ago:

Why not openly identify myself? Because my readers then would have jammed my thinking into the Procrustean bed of their prejudice.

Oh, that sounds familiar, all right. For nigh ten years now, I've been publishing essays online. I had written before - a column here, a letter there, an editorial or dozen in the college newspaper - but my big break was in 1999. It was the year when the Internet first showed its potential as an alternate news medium, with Serbian proto-bloggers challenging the image of the Kosovo War crafted by the mainstream media that served NATO's war machine. (And serve they did: one of the BBC reporters covering the war later became the NATO spokesman.) Embittered by that war, I started writing. A Serbian diaspora website, which used to re-post a lot of the war reports, was happy to publish my essays. But it never occurred to me that I ought to hide behind a moniker. When invited me aboard as a columnist, in late 2000, I used my real name. I even took time to offer a helpful lesson in Balkans spelling, so people would pronounce it properly.

Hate mail has been a constant. Only twice did someone challenge something I've actually said. Both were minor details. The rest of the time, complaints have run along the lines of "why are you publishing this raving Serbian chauvinist, genocide denier, apologist for atrocities, etc." You see, by questioning the propaganda about genocide, I was a "genocide denier." Never mind that I was later vindicated. Rising to fame and fortune (and let's not forget power) in the 1990s by fabricating the myth of "genocidal Serb aggressors" means never having to apologize.

Mind you, this sort of "criticism" wasn't limited to Albanians, Bosnian Muslims, or Croats (some of whom felt threatened by my "propaganda"). Some of the nastiest mail came from Serbia, after the Djindjic assassination in the spring of 2003. It was somewhat amusing, though, to see people curse me as a "son of Milosevic cronies" or "mercenary of the regime." My family lives in Bosnia, and I've never received one red cent from the Serbian government, but since I spoke of Djindjic in something other than awed reverence, I had to belong to a hated category. Their prejudice was so strong, they invented a fictional me to make my words fit their perceptions!

In November 2004, when I created this blog, I picked a handle that went with the theme, and also had a layer or two of metaphorical meaning. But my very first post linked to my work at, so it's not like I tried to disguise my identity. I simply chose to make it a secondary concern, to try and put the focus on what I was saying, as opposed to who I was.

No such luck. That very month I broke the story of a Norwegian-commissioned report for the ICTY that put the death toll in Bosnia at just over 100,000. Within days, Reuters was talking about "Serbian weblogs" claiming that the research by Mirsad Tokaca (also funded by the Norwegians) "disproved the accepted fact that Muslims were by far the main victims" of the war. But there were no "Serbian weblogs," just little old me. I never did figure out whether the Reuters reporter researched the identity of Gray Falcon and said "Aha! A Serb!" or if he concluded that I must have been a Serb, since I dared challenge "the accepted fact."

The thing about prejudice is that you can't argue with it. Not rationally. Saying "No, I'm not really like that" doesn't work, either. And to be honest, I have no interest at all justifying myself to most of my critics. They haven't shown me that they deserve it.

So, when a particularly vicious screed arrived two weeks ago to the letters editor, and he asked if I wanted to comment on it, I said, "Why waste my breath?" Run the letter without comment, I said, because nothing I say will make the author - one Asma Ishak - look any worse than her own words. I actually urge you to read this masterpiece of ignorance, arrogance and stupidity. I'm particularly fond of the way she claims not to care about people's ethnicity, religion and race, as she finishes a rant against someone based solely on his ethnicity. Perhaps her definition of "people" specifically excluded the Serbs? She wouldn't be the first.

Had Asma Ishak not been so obsessed with my origin, she might have noticed that in the text she ranted against, I criticized an editorial not because of the identity of its author (I certainly don't care if Borut Grgic is Slovenian), but because it tried to disguise a business agenda (an Austrian company's takeover of BH Telekom) as caring about the future of Bosnia. Yet I'm supposed to be a hater, driven by ideas that Ishak "detests," herself being all emancipated and enlightened.

This kind of thinking is precisely why Romeo and Juliet committed suicide. He was a Montague, she a Capulet - the feud between their houses meant their love could never be. Today's obsession with names isn't about identity - most people's identities are crumbling under the onslaught of soulless secular humanism - but about identity politics, which is the very embodiment of prejudice. Seize upon one little thing, build an identity around it, fight with others over government-bestowed privileges based on it. Sounds just like a recipe for a harmonious future, does it not?

My work speaks for itself. There are hundreds of columns archived on, and hundreds more on this blog. I've spoken out against the Empire, against war (and therefore against war crimes, which ought to be intuitively obvious to even a semi-literate observer), for liberty, private property, secession, law, justice... But because the name behind these arguments is Nebojsa Malic, and not Muhammad or Bob, many people reject them out of hand, and some even feel compelled to create an imaginary me as a target of their rage.

That doesn't say much about me, but speaks volumes about them.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tito, Mihailovic and the British

Reader "Suvorov" was curious:

How many Chetniks were there under Mihajlovic's command? How many were there in other factions? How many people were in Nedic's guard and other similar "German-inspired" formations? How many Partizans were there and what percent of them were Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, (of course there were also Bosniaks, Albanians, and other small numbers of ethnic groups living in Yugoslavia)?

[...] By the way, is there any book in English about Balkans during WWII which you would recommend? Thanks again.

The numbers varied throughout the war. The leading authority on the WW2 Royalists in Serbia, Miloslav Samardžić, says that in the spring of 1944 there were "over 100,000" Chetniks* under Mihailović's command. Nedić's gendarmerie numbered around 20,000, and there were about 8,000 or so men loyal to Dimitrije Ljotić, a fascist who eagerly collaborated with the Germans.

Samardžić also says that Serbs made up the vast majority of the Partisans. When you hear about "Croatian" partisans and "Croatian" brigades, he says, those were actually Serbs from territories called Croatia, not necessarily Croats.

The most commonly used figure for Partisan numbers is 800,000. It comes from official Communist history. Even if we assume its accuracy, the figure comes from late 1944, when many Chetniks as well as Domobrani (Croatian regulars called up by the Pavelić regime) and Italians had joined up. (According to the same source, the partisans had suffered over 300,000 casualties during the war, mostly in the open battles of late 1944 and early 1945.)

I have heard good things about Michael Lees' "The Rape of Serbia" (subtitled "The British Role in Tito's Grab for Power 1943-1944"), published in 1990. I haven't actually managed to obtain a copy, but I've been following a lot of work in Serbia about the intrigue and power games involving the British, Tito, Mihailović and the royal government in exile. The picture that emerges is that the Brits sidelined the royal government, cherry-picked one of its members (Ivan Šubašić, the pre-war ban of Croatia) to sign a treaty with Tito, then bullied the young king into issuing a radio endorsement of Tito as the supreme commander of the resistance.

It wasn't just the Serbs who were used then abandoned by the British. The Poles and Czechs who escaped to the West were similarly betrayed when all of Easter Europe was given to Stalin. And then there was Operation Keelhaul...

(* The proper name for this force was the "Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland")

Monday, April 06, 2009

April 6

1941: Enraged by Belgrade's rejection of the Tripartite Pact, Adolf Hitler orders Unternehmen Strafgericht (Operation Punishment), the attack on the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Italy, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria join the invasion. By April 10, Croat troops had mutinied and the "Independent State of Croatia" was established, eagerly welcoming the Germans. By April 18, the war was over and Yugoslavia had ceased to exist, partitioned by the invaders.

What followed was four years of uprisings (by royalists and Communists), brutal reprisals by the occupiers, and a genocide of Serbs, Jews and Roma by the "Independent State of Croatia." Whether the Yugoslav insurgency really disrupted the German war effort to any great extent is debatable, but the fact remains that Hitler's whim delayed the planned invasion of the USSR by five weeks.

1992: Washington and countries of the EEC (precursor to the EU) recognize Bosnia-Herzegovina as an independent state. The recognition was requested by the Muslim-dominated regime of Alija Izetbegovic, seeking to trump the objections of the country's Serbs. Just over a third of the country's population, the Serbs supported staying in Yugoslavia, but were willing to accept an independent Bosnia if it were organized on the Swiss model (a confederation of ethnic cantons). Bosnian Croats backed Izetbegovic's declaration of independence, but also sought territorial autonomy; units of Croatian Army were already present in many parts of Bosnia, skirmishing with the retreating Yugoslav federal army and Serb militias.

In February of 1992 it seemed that a compromised had been achieved under the aegis of the EEC, with all three groups agreeing on a proposal submitted by Portuguese diplomat Jose Cutilheiro. However, in March Izetbegovic reneged on the agreement, following a consultation with the U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia, Warren Zimmerman. Convinced (erroneously) that he had Croatia's backing, confident in U.S. support, willing to sacrifice as many lives as necessary to achieve his goal of Muslim-dominated Bosnia, Izetbegovic simply refused to make any deals with the Serbs. Recognition of his regime closed the door on all political and diplomatic avenues of resolving the Bosnian conundrum; Western policymakers claimed it was supposed to prevent a war; in fact, it made war inevitable.