David N. Gibbs Replies to Marko Atilla Hoare
This posting is a follow-up on an extended debate that I have been having with Marko Atilla Hoare, on the breakup of Yugoslavia during the 1990s. For those interested in the full set of comments, you can find them here http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/david-gibbs-answers-marko-atilla-hoare/. This debate actually began on Modernityblog, but I have decided that Louis Proyect’s website is a much better venue for my comments. I thank Louis for allowing me to post on his website.
Let me begin by noting that Hoare seems to have an obsessive interest in my 2009 book, First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia (Vanderbilt University Press, 2009). Over the past two months, Hoare has written three lengthy attack reviews of my book on his own website, which (when printed out) run to some eighteen single-spaced pages; in addition to several dozen postings to Modernityblog, in debates that directly address my book. And he promises that there will be yet more attack reviews, to add to all this. One wonders if the man actually has a job, or if attacking me has become a full time endeavor. Either way, I am impressed by the sheer volume of his output.
In what follows, I will make no pretense that I answer all of Hoare’s allegations, which I find impossible, given the huge quantity of his charges. What I will show however is that Hoare’s writings contain major and systematic errors of fact that would, in any normal situation, discredit him.
One of Hoare’s most persistent charges is that my book whitewashes Serb atrocities, notably the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. In reality, this is nothing but a smear, based on an extended series of factual errors. Several examples follow. In Modernityblog (29/12/10), Hoare writes:
“in your sections on Srebrenica (pp. 153-154, 161-162), you falsely portray the Srebrenica Muslims as the ones principally guilty of the violence in the Srebrenica region, and of ‘creating the hatred’ there – despite the fact that most of the killing in the region was the work of the Serb forces.”
Wrong. This is what my book actually states (p. 161):
“the capture of Srebrenica led to atrocities that were far larger in scale than anything that had occurred during three years of fighting… the Serb armies began by expelling the town’s women and children, producing yet another act of ethnic cleansing. And then the Serbs proceeded to murder some eight thousand military age Muslim males. According to the Dutch investigation of the massacre: ‘Muslims were slaughtered like beasts.’”
Later in the debate (5/1/11), Hoare changes tack and makes the following statement — which contains new factual errors:
“Your account of the background to the Srebrenica massacre presents the Muslims/Bosnian army as the ones principally guilty of the atrocities in the region, and of having ‘created the hatred’ there (pp. 153-154).
You then claim ‘The origin of the Srebrenica massacre lay in a series of Muslim attacks that began in the spring of 1995.’ (p. 160)
So while you do not deny that the massacre occurred, you a) deny that it was genocide, and b) blame the victims for it.” [emphasis added]
The key point here is the claim that I supposedly “blame the victims” for the Srebrenica massacre. This is a straightforward factual error. In reality, my position is the following:
“Without question, the Bosnian Serb army and their political and military leaders must bear the overwhelming burden of guilt for having orchestrated this calamity. However, the Muslim leader Alija Izetbegović must bear some of the blame as well. Contrary to popular belief, Bosnia’s Muslim-led government was in fact quite ruthless and some of its actions helped lay the groundwork for the massacre. Specifically, the Izetbegović government followed a clear policy that aimed to maximize casualties of its own civilians, a strategy adopted to elicit the outrage of international public opinion, and thus leading to Western military intervention against the Serbs and in favor of the Muslim.” [emphasis added]
This quote was taken from the following article, which was posted twice to Modernityblog: D. Gibbs, “The Srebrenica Massacre After Fifteen Years,” Foreign Policy in Focus, July 30, 2010, (www.fpif.org/articles/the_srebrenica_massacre_after_fifteen_years).
In short, I never state that the 8,000 Muslim victims were responsible for the Srebrenica massacre. On the contrary, I put primary blame on the Serb forces, and secondary blame on the Muslim government (which is not the same as the Muslim massacre victims). Hoare’s inflammatory claim that I blame the victims is a factual error.
Hoare’s above statement contains yet another error, attributing to me the quote “created the hatred” – which implies that I believe the Muslims not the Serbs had created the hatred in the Srebrenica area. In reality, the phrase “created the hatred” appears nowhere in my book or in any of my writings.
A central claim by Hoare is that I engage in “genocide denial.” Indeed, his first review of my book was given the unsubtle title, “The Bizarre World of Genocide Denial” (Greater Surbiton, 6/12/10). The origin of Hoare’s charge is an endnote in my book (p. 281), in which I presented an extended quote from an article by Katherine Southwick, in the Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal. The quote criticizes the Krstić decision by the international tribunal at The Hague, which had originally defined the Srebrenica massacre as a case of genocide. The cited article strongly implies that the court had erred in defining that massacre as genocide. Based on the evidence in the Southwick article, my endnote concluded that Srebrenica was closer to a war crime than to a genocide. This endnote became the initial basis of Hoare’s entire claim that I am a supposed genocide denier.
If I cannot cite and agree with an article in a Yale law review without being attacked like this, then there obviously is something wrong with the way this discussion is taking place.
When the above was pointed out on Modernityblog, Hoare responded (29/12/10):
“The Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal article by Katherine G. Southwick that you cite, unlike you, does not blame the genocide on the victims.” [emphasis added]
This is another factual error since, as noted above, I never blame the victims for the Srebrenica massacre.
Another point of contention concerns the lead-up to the Srebrenica massacre. Hoare claims my book “suppresses the history of Serb mass killings of Bosniaks in east Bosnia in 1992” (7/12/10). Wrong. Here is what my book actually says (122):
“As war began [in1992], Serb forces launched a major offensive in northeast Bosnia, talking over a series of villages of mixed ethnicity, and then expelling most of the non-Serb inhabitants by force. By the end of 1992, Serb forces had overrun large portions of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and they controlled approximately 70 percent of the whole area of the country. The process of ethnic cleansing, for which the war became famous, had begun… The Bosnia conflict quickly became notorious for the scale of atrocities, especially those perpetrated by Serb forces against Muslim civilians. The widespread practice of ethnic cleansing was often associated with the killing of noncombatants, and also the raping of women and girls.”
In short: With regard to the issue of Serb atrocities, Hoare’s claims are an extended misrepresentation of my position, based on a long string of factual errors.
And there are still more errors. With regard to my sources, Hoare claims that Gibbs “hasn’t bothered to engage with the existing literature, but simply ignored all the existing works that undermine his thesis” (Greater Surbiton, 6/12/10). He then lists five specific authors that I supposedly failed to cite (Michael Libal, Richard Caplan, Daniele Corversi, Brendan Simms, and Hoare himself). Wrong again. In fact I cited four of these authors, each several times, and also included them in the bibliography. Hoare’s own writings were cited (and criticized) in four separate endnotes. His claim that I have ignored these authors is in error.
And in a later posting to Greater Surbiton (24/12/10), Hoare discusses at great length my book’s criticisms of his own work – thus contradicting his previous claim that my book had ignored his work. And he also discusses a quote from my book that discusses Serb atrocities in northeast Bosnia in 1992 (see my block quote above). This contradicts his previous statement that my book “suppresses the history of Serb mass killings of Bosniaks in east Bosnia in 1992.” Finally, I will note that Hoare’s third long review of my book contains a factual error in its very title of the review: “First Check their Sources 2: The Myth that ‘Most of Bosnia was Owned by the Serbs before the War.’” In reality, the quoted phrase (“Most of Bosnia…”) appears nowhere in my book or in any of my writings.
The above should give the reader a sense of Hoare’s “style” of argumentation. No doubt this posting will be followed by yet another blistering attack on my work, penned by the ever-eager Mr. Hoare — presenting yet more factual errors. I wonder if his cumulative attacks will eventually exceed several hundred pages. Perhaps Hoare should consider publishing all of his attacks of my work as a separate book; or even an encyclopedia.