Lenin v Hoare

There is a very interesting discussion taking place on Lenin’s Tomb about atrocities committed during the break up of Yugoslavia.

This is a subject on which the SWP has a difficult line to tread. It cannot deny the massacre of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica, for example. Similarly, it reflexively opposes the intervention of the United States in the conflict, but has some qualms about displaying too great an enthusiasm for Milosevic.

How does Lenin tread this difficult path?

Simple. By downplaying the massacre of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica, and of the role of Milosevic’s Greater Serb aggression during the conflict, and then – in a classic piece of “disinformation” – by accusing Marko Atilla Hoare of describing “the ethnic cleansing of some 200,000 Serbs from Croatia in 1995 as “the liberation of Krajina”.”

In The War in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina 1991-1995, published a couple of months after the twin towers attacks, Marko Atilla Hoare, son of the litigous Branka Magas and Quintin Hoare, saw fit to describe the ethnic cleansing of some 200,000 Serbs from Croatia in 1995 as “the liberation of Krajina”. In this, he was in agreement with the Croatian regime, its ambassador, the U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith (who specifically denied that it was ethnic cleansing), and Croatia’s apologists such as Duke Otto von Habsburg of Germany (who referred to the ethnic cleansing as liberation at the European Parliament) and tacitly the bulk of the Western media. I don’t claim that Hoare was won over by Croatian nationalism, and I certainly wouldn’t imply that his mother was either, since both claims could take me in a dangerous direction. Nevertheless, his printed material tells a sufficient tale in itself. Only a few honourable skeptics like Robert Fisk actually called it for what it was at the time.

By contrast, of course, the war in Bosnia, including especially the massacre of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica by Serb forces, are uniformly referred to as “genocide” in the mainstream media, (and Hoare is not one to buck that trend). In fact it was, by most accounts, genocide bearing comparison with the Nazi holocaust. This was not so, and even the death-rates during the conflict were consciously exaggerated, and continue to be so.

Unfortunately for Lenin, Hoare then turns up on the thread and delivers a slap-down:

“Lenin”, if you are going to post an attack upon me on your blog, you could at least be professional enough to post what I actually wrote, so that your readers can make up their own minds. Can you actually find a quotation from me, in the book you mention or anywhere else, where I “saw fit to describe the ethnic cleansing of some 200,000 Serbs from Croatia in 1995 as “the liberation of Krajina”.” ?

What I actually wrote was: “In the summer of 1995, it was the Serbian conquest of Srebrenica, the renewed attack on Bihac, and the complete failure of the West to react, which led to the Split agreement between Sarajevo and Zagreb, the liberation of Krajina and the breaking of the blockade of Bihac.” (Branka Magas and Ivo Zanic, eds, ‘The War in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1991-1995’, Frank Cass, London, 2001, p. 309).

The context of my statement, which you likewise fail to give, was a critique of Western collusion in the Serbian and Croatian dismemberment of Bosnia. I am unsurprised that you fail to give it, because the SWP has never acknowledged that it was Bosnia, not Serbia, that was the principal victim of Western policy in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s; and that any genuinely “anti-imperialist” line would have involved defending Bosnia from the Western-backed Serbian and Croatian dismemberment.

For the record, I entirely supported Croatia’s right to liberate its occupied territories from the Serb occupying forces. Operation Storm saved the lives of perhaps tens of thousands of Muslim civilians in the Bihac enclave that the Krajina Serbs were attacking; brought about the defeat of Great Serbian imperialism; rescued both Croatia and Bosnia from territorial dismemberment; and led directly to a peace settlement in Bosnia a few months later. I’ll go further: Croatia was legally and morally obliged to launch Operation Storm, since Serb forces were using Croatian territory to attack the neighbouring state of Bosnia-Hercegovina, and were indeed threatening to conquer the entire Bihac enclave. Had Croatia failed to act, it would have been complicit in the Serb conquest of the Bihac enclave (rather as Lebanon’s failure to act against Hezbollah made it complicit in Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel – though these were very small compared to the massive Krajina Serb assault on Bihac in 1995).

I appreciate that the safety of the Bihac Muslims, the survival of Croatia and Bosnia as unified, independent states, and the defeat of Great Serbian imperialism are not close to the heart of SWP supporters. But this does not give you the right to falsify positions with which you disagree. I’m not going to sue you (though I could), and I’m sure I’d be wasting my time demanding an apology and a retraction, so I’ll confine myself to requesting that you allow me to post this response uncensored.

For the record, I entirely condemn the Croatian atrocities against Serb civilians during Operation Storm, about which I have written on a number of occasions. As a former member of the Socialist Workers Student Society, I seem to remember being told by my then comrades that support for a national liberation movement does not imply support for the atrocities it carries out (have I got this wrong ? does the SWP actually support the slaughter of Shiite civilians by the Iraqi Sunni insurgency, or Israeli civilians by Palestinian suicide bombers ?). So far as Croatian atrocities against Serbs are concerned, I am proud to say that I have worked for an organization that has been bringing the Croat war-criminals involved to justice – the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. I entirely support the ICTY’s prosecution of Ante Gotovina and other Croats for war-crimes against Serbs during Operation Storm. Perhaps, “Lenin”, you could say whether you do too ?

Finally, as the real Lenin was a resolute champion of the right of nations to self-determination; as both he and Trotsky described Serbia as “imperialist”; and as the Comintern under Lenin supported the rebellion of Croatians, Bosnians and Albanians against Yugoslav rule, and their right to self-determination, perhaps you could explain why you have broken with your hero’s position on these questions ? Or do you accept that Croatians, Bosnians and Kosovars (and indeed Serbians and others) had the right to self-determination and to secede from Yugoslavia ?

There are also some worth-reading contributions from Paul Fauvet.

Lenin is a Chomsky enthusiast.

He has clearly acquired a particular skill in distortion and misattribution from the master of those arts.