Wednesday, July 18, 2007

On Sarajevo and genocide: Some reflections from home

This past week was a remarkable learning experience. I met fascinating people doing fascinating work on various aspects of genocide. I realize that there is much I have yet to learn but I walk away with one overriding conviction.

Scholars must do scholarship. Politicians and ideologues can do ideology and politics, but scholars must concentrate on scholarship and let the facts lead them where they may.

This is true whether it is in reference to the Holocaust, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia among a myriad of other places. Scholars must be allowed to ask tough questions and to follow the facts. There will always be differences of opinion on how the facts should be interpreted but the facts must never be shaped to fit a particular outcome.

Sometimes scholars might ask questions which seem to suggest that they are diminishing the suffering of a particular group or are suggesting that it was the group's "fault." In fact, they might be doing what scholars do: asking uncomfortable questions.

For example, let's say a genocide occures in the wake of a group declaring its independence when the group in question did not have the power to protect its people. In response to its declaration of independence it's people get massacred and genocide is committed against them.

The group which declared its independence explains that it thought the world would not let such a thing happen and expected the world organizations [e.g UN and NATO] to come to their defense. The organizations, not surprisingly, fail to do so and genocide occurs.

Who's at fault?

I don't think such a scenario in any manner, shape, or form diminishes the horror of genocide or the complete guilt of those who committed the act. They have done something for which they carry full responsibility and should be punished accordingly.

However it does leave open the quesion: does the independence declaring group carry some responsibility? Can we fault the leaders who acted in this manner without sounding as if we are in some way condoning the genocide?

Nor should scholarly findings be determined by vote. That's just nuts.

2 comments:

Srebrenica Massacre Editor said...

"The group which declared its independence explains that it thought the world would not let such a thing happen and expected the world organizations [e.g UN and NATO] to come to their defense. The organizations, not surprisingly, fail to do so and genocide occurs. Who's at fault?"

There is no group which declared independence. People of Bosnia (Bosniaks, Serbs, Croats and others) declared independence legally through democratic process and with the parliamentary passing. Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic did not represent all Serbs; they were extreme nationalists who dreamed of ethnically cleansed Greater Serbia. They were indicted for genocide at the International Criminal Tribunal, and th US Government also offered $5 million reward for information leading to their capture.

So you are asking who's fault is it? Can people of Bosnia be blamed for exercising their democratic right to vote for independence? The fact that some Serbs boycotted referendum for independence is their own right. The process was perfectly legal and it won parliamentary passing.

The fingers must be pointed to the West, because you did not allow us to defend ourselves. You imposed ARMS EMBARGO on us.

The Serbs have been aided by the arms embargo on Yugoslavia imposed by the U.N. in 1991. The arms embargo allowed the 80,000 man-Bosnian Serb militia, armed and supported by neighboring Serbia, to retain control of the territory that it has conquered, roughly 70 percent of Bosnia, in large part due to a near monopoly of heavy weapons. The Bosnian government mobilized up to 200,000 men but was been unable to arm them because of the embargo. Less than one in three of its potential fighters had weapons, and it was outgunned by the smaller - heavily armed - Serb force.

Michael Averko said...

"For example, let's say a genocide occures in the wake of a group declaring its independence when the group in question did not have the power to protect its people. In response to its declaration of independence it's people get massacred and genocide is committed against them."

***

Any place in mind? Then there're some who portray the above as such when it's not quite so.

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As per the "srebrenica massacre editor", prior to the outbreak of hostilities, the Bosnian Muslim supporters of fundamentalist Alija Izetbegovic (reference his 1970 published "Islamic declaration", which he never recanted) refused to relinquish the presidency over to the Serb represenative as was consitutionally required. This happened as Muslim militias loyal to Izetbegovic positioned themselves for war in civilian areas.

Izetbegovic didn't represent all Muslims. The more secular Fikrat Abdic actually received more votes for the Bosnian presidency. Abdic and his forces opposed Izetbegovic. Likewise, there were moments when Serbs and Croats fought Izetbegovic forces and when Izetbegovic forces-Croat hostilities were greater than Croat-Serb and Izetbegovic forces-Serb battles.

The fingers can be pointed to the West for buying into the slick Izetbegovic propaganda campaign.