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Web Letter

Based on his article, Marc Perelman was rather an inadequate choice of writers to pick for reviewing Hartmann's book--birds of a feather in inadequacy. Reading what Perelman and Florence Hartmann have to say about the ICTY is like opening a book about the Balkan tragedy in the middle and trying to understand what was taking place. They both need to start at the beginning if they expect us to pay attention to what they have to write about. Better yet, skip both writers and go to Susan L. Woodward's Balkan Tragedy--Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War, the best and most comprehensive book for understanding the Yugoslavian debacle. For a more concise version, see Edward S. Herman and David Peterson's essay in the October '07 issue of Monthly Review, "The Dismantling of Yugoslavia: A Study in Inhumanitarian Intervention (and a Western Liberal-Left Intellectual and Moral Collapse)."

Perelman and Hartmann obviously belong to the group of "libs" who peaked in the '90s that I usually refer to as "humanitarian bombers"--those who bought the myth of "humanitarian interventions." It was a mythical but necessary precursor for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, actions that have firmly discredited the bombers, although, for obvious reasons, they find it difficult to apply the debunking retroactively. That Hartman now sees France, Britain and the US as "sabotaging the [tribunal's] work" is a real gut-buster. The ICTY was the demon child that sprang from the loins of this transatlantic axis of evil with a new-world father. How can anything relating to the ICTY be perceived as a sabotage under the circumstances? Herman and Peterson write:

The creation of the ICTY followed by only five months a December 1992 speech by Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger that called for a “second Nuremberg” to bring to trial named villains, mainly Serb leaders, including Milosevic. It was organized mainly by U.S. initiative, with its staff referring to Madeleine Albright as the “mother of the Tribunal”; it has been funded and largely staffed—and with high-level personnel vetted—by U.S. and NATO officials; and it has functioned consistently as a dispenser of faux-justice and moralistic opprobrium, while serving as a real public relations and political arm of NATO. As NATO spokesman Jamie Shea pointed out during the 1999 bombing war, NATO countries “established” and “are amongst the majority financiers” of the tribunal, and support its activities “on a daily basis.” Asked whether NATO recognizes the ICTY’s jurisdiction over its bombing activities, Shea replied that “when Justice Arbour starts her investigation, she will because we will allow her to....I am certain that when Justice Arbour goes to Kosovo and looks at the facts she will be indicting people of Yugoslav nationality and I don’t anticipate any others....” And when pressed on the same point the very next day, Shea replied: “We are the upholders, not the violators, of international law.” Shea’s remarks on this NATO-ICTY relationship have never been reported by the New York Times; nor were they reported by any establishment daily newspaper at the time.

It is time to start re-visiting the Yugoslavian disaster and what it really represents. One way to begin is to choose more aware writers like Woodward, Herman and Noam Chomsky for writings about Yugoslavia. Many of us were out demonstrating during the seventy-eight-day bombing period, shaking our heads over the oxymoronic humanitarian killers, only we omitted the first syllable. It is time for The Nation to do the same.

Austin Whitten

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Jan 2 2008 - 5:07pm

Web Letter

Citing Florence Hartmann, Marc Perelman argues that there was some kind of conspiracy on the part of the USA to prevent the ICTY from prosecuting Slobodan Milosevic to the full extent since there was worry that it might uncover a Western conspiracy to permit the slaughter at Srebrenica as part of an effort to divide Bosnia along ethnic lines. Perhaps the failure to satisfy Ms. Hartmann's thirst for justice has more to do with the weakness of the case, as reported in the October 10, 2004, Observer, a newspaper that is distinguished by a hostility to Milosevic second to none:

Fresh controversy has hit the war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic with a claim from a senior intelligence analyst that the Yugoslav leader is innocent of genocide.

Dr Cees Wiebes, a professor at Amsterdam University, now says there is no evidence linking Milosevic to the worst atrocity of the Bosnian war, the massacre of 7,000 Muslims at the town of Srebrenica.

Srebrenica, which was overrun by Serb forces in July 1995, forms the basis of the genocide charge against Milosevic, but Wiebes, a member of a Dutch government inquiry into the atrocity, said there is nothing to link Milosevic to the crime.

'In our report, which is about 7,000 pages long, we come to the conclusion that Milosevic had no foreknowledge of the subsequent massacres,' he says in a radio programme, The Real Slobodan Milosevic, to be broadcast by BBC Five Live tonight. 'What we did find, however, was evidence to the contrary. Milosevic was very upset when he learnt about the massacres.'

Louis Proyect

New York, NY

Dec 22 2007 - 10:48am