On Bosnia and the Left

Against the Current, No. 57, July/August 1995

Attila Hoare

IN ENGLAND THERE exists a shadowy political sect known as the Revolutionary Communist Party, which produces a magazine entitled Living Marxism. This magazine serves as a propaganda sheet for Serbian nationalism. In the spring of 1993 it hosted an exhibition in London, paid for by the Serbian government, that attempted to equate the Bosnians and Croatians of today with the fascist Ustashe of World War II.

The January 1995 issue of Living Marxism contained an article on the Bosnian war by a certain Joan Phillips, the leading organizer of the exhibition. In the 30 January issue of The Nation, a shorter version of the same article appeared, under the name of Joan Hoey.

Whole paragraphs from the Phillips article are repeated word for word in the Hoey article. The article(s) contained factual distortions aimed at smearing the Bosnian liberation struggle, and attacked the Clinton Administration for supposedly giving the Bosnians support.

On 23 February I wrote to The Nation, to point out that it had published an article by a known apologist for Serbian nationalism, and to correct some of the distortions contained within it. My letter has not been printed. Instead, I received a personal reply from Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, promising that an inquiry would be undertaken but defending The Nation’s decision to publish the Hoey piece, on the grounds that it was a “useful article to publish.”

Hoey’s “useful article” described Bosnia as a “secessionist republic,” whose army was guilty last October of having “launched an offensive out of the U.N.-designated `safe area’ of Bihac,” which was “used as a staging area for attacks against Serb-populated areas on the Grabez plateau.”

Hoey presents the Bosnian offensive as some sort of sneaky American-instigated attack on peaceful Serb civilians. In fact the so-called “safe area” extended only to the town of Bihac, not to the surrounding Bosnian-controlled territory from which the offensive was launched.

This offensive was itself a response to over two years of Serbian attacks on the “safe area” and the surrounding countryside, some of which had been launched from Serbian-occupied Krajina in Croatia, which really is a United Nations Protected Area.

Hoey also accuses the Bosnians of “the expulsion of about 10,000 Serbs” from the area around Grabez, though none of the journalists covering the fighting had claimed that the fleeing Serbs were the victims of “expulsion” by the Bosnians.

A few months previously, The Nation’s issue of 5-12 September 1994 contained another piece, by British journalist Misha Glenny, describing Serbia’s President Milosevic, architect of Serbia’s aggression and genocide against the Bosnian Muslims, as “the only key to peace in the Balkans” — on the grounds that he must be relied upon to pressurize the Karadzic Serbs to accept the Contact Group “peace plan” that cedes half of Bosnia to Serbian control.

At the same time Glenny accuses the Bosnians (or Muslims, as he calls them), of having “a vested interest in keeping the war going,” because Clinton had supposedly led them to expect supplies of arms from the USA in the near future. Since “the Bosnian leadership wants war to get weapons” (rather than the other way round!), and the Karadzic Serbs also want war, Glenny concludes that “this adds up to perverse alliance” between the former and the latter.

In other words, after having experienced the occupation of 70% of their country, the killing of 200,000 of their people and the rape of 40,000 more, and having nevertheless signed the Contact Group “peace plan” that cedes half of their country to their oppressor, the Bosnians are still somehow painted by Glenny as warmongers.

Statements of such breathtakingly twisted logic could not be made by an impartial analyst. It has to be asked why a left publication such as The Nation should publish articles of this kind.

EDITORS’ NOTE: It’s not the regular practice for Against the Current to polemicize against other publications of the left, particularly our friends at The Nation, which regularly publishes Christopher Hitchens’ columns trenchantly defending Bosnia. We do feel, however, that the war of aggression against Bosnia rises to the level of potential genocide and that the Western powers’ policies constitute active complicity in it — and that the left press should not allow the fundamental issues at stake to be clouded.

ATC 57, July-August 1995