Saturday, September 23, 2006

Left and Right: Two Sides Of The Same Coin

Left and Right: Two Sides of The Same Coin.

Please Note: This is not mean to be by ANY means a thorough examination of leftwing or rightwing genocide denial. It simply reflects my own opinion of a theme I noticed in both left wing and right wing genocide denial from various message boards and articles I found after a very quick and cursory google search.

Secondly, for the links you’ll have to copy and paste them into address bar.

A decade after the Dayton Treaty was signed, there are still active voices decrying the U.S.’s military intervention in the Bosnian conflict.

Those who do some come from a variety of political and ideological points of view. And they cannot be lumped together under one single ideological banner. This essay does not deal with those who have moral, political or ethical qualms with the U.S. military intervention or with U.S. foreign policy. There are several legitimate arguments you can make both for and against humanitarian intervention; even if I personally disagree with the opposing point of view.

That being said, there is an extreme, albeit a vocal extreme, amongst the anti interventionist crowd who not only oppose intervention but who also serve as apologists for the Milosevic regime and who have portrayed Milosevic as the “victim” in the entire Balkan tragedy. For the sake of convenience, I’ll just call them genocide apologists, because in essence that is what they are. What further distinguishes them from the those who simply do not agree with U.S. intervention in Bosnia, is that they display a callousness towards the victims of Milosevic’s atrocities. (Note: Check out the last few posts of Kirk of American For Bosnia Blog analysis of Diana Johnstone’s “Fool’s Paradise” for an example of this callous attitude towards the people in Bosnia).

The genocide apologists are not limited to one side of the political fence, they include far leftwing ideologues, far right wing ideologues and paleoconservative isolationist libertarians (for a genocide apologist from the libertarian perspective, see
However, while genocide apologists are not limited to one political faction, the bulk of the scholarship produced by the genocide apologists are produced by adherents of the far left. The most prominent include: Edward Herman, Diana Johnstone, Noam Chomsky, Michael Parenti and Jared Israel.

There is already a wealth of information of excellent analyses of the far left’s pro Milosevic’s viewpoint. (BTW: it is important to note that not everyone of the far left subscribes to a genocide apologist point of view. Most notably, the website Green Left).

For an overview of the ideological reasoning behind the far left’s support of Milosevic, I recommend the following essays:



And for an excellent and thorough analysis of “Fool’s Paradise” check out this essay:


Another invaluable resource that includes some articles from the pro Milosevic ideologues as well many dissenting opinions, articles and analyses can be found here:


To generalize the ideology and politics behind genocide denial by the far left: it seems rooted in a deep mistrust in US foreign policy, US “imperialistic” impulses, the mainstream media as well as a strong support for Milosevic’s Serbia, which is seen as a socialist nation fighting against a NATO-US global hegemony.

As I mentioned before, the most prominent and recognized genocide apologists come from the far left side of the fence. However, the extreme right has also been closely tied with being genocide apologists.

In my research (albeit nothing extremely extensive) I found no analyses of the far right’s ideological and political reasoning for their genocide apologist stance. This is most likely because as I mentioned before, the most prominent and well known genocide apologists with regard to Bosnia (at least U.S. genocide apologists, I’m not dealing with scholarship published in Europe, because I haven’t actually read any of the books to comment on.) come from a leftist background. They are also the ones who have published books and articles which can be analyzed.

The most prominent sources I found supporting genocide from a far right perspective were the fringe websites, and Stormfront is a blatant neo nazi website. Free Republic is an extremely conservative messageboard and news source.
The conservative magazine “National Review” picked as its editor’s pick of the week a book on Islam written by blatant Islamophobe and spokesperson for the government in Pale, Srdja Trifkovic.

Looking at both right wing and left wing genocide apologist stances, one theme I noticed is that they both, albeit it to a different degree, make use of anti Muslim stance to support their stance.

The difference lies in exactly how they use anti Muslim characterizations as their reasoning for support of genocide denial.

For the far right, Islamophobia lies at the heart of their genocide apologist stance. Their Islamophobia is not limited to the Balkans, but as the title of a Free Republic webpage entitled “Islamic Evil Empire” shows, anti Muslim sentiments are a strong ideological force.

This racist viewpoint is at the very root of the “reasoning” for genocide denial and justification by the extreme right wing. The Balkan wars are seen as “Muslims vs. Christians” With the Muslims being cast as extremists, terrorists, and often much worse. With the Christians being portrayed as good simply because they are Christian. This racist, black/white view is the primary lense through which they see the Balkan conflicts. For example, this sample post from calls for the support of the Republika Srpska state, because it is a “Christian” state.

If you are so inclined to, you may do you own search and you can find messages that are even more blatantly racist and anti Bosniak biases and conspiracy theories on the freerepublic website. Unfortunately, racism seems to be a very dominant theme on the website. The fact that the ultra nationalist genocide apologist website, srpska-mreza cites freerepublic as an “informed source” gives a pretty good idea as to the position and ideological stance of the messageboard participants towards to the Bosnian War.

While it does not nearly have the same reach in society as genocide denial of far left ideologues like Edward Herman, the extreme right has also offered their own editorials and “analyses” of the Balkan war. As the messages on freerepublic, the dominant ideological reasoning for supporting “Serbia” and demonizing “Bosnia” is religion. (Note: complexities do not seem to mean much to those on the far right or far left. Serbia is automatically considered a Christian state, despite a sizeable Muslim minority, while Bosnia is considered to be Muslim. Furthermore, anti Milosevic factions and anti genocide denial factions within Serbia is never given any consideration. )

One example of this racism as the reason for supporting genocide can be found in this article on Alan Keyes’s (former US presidential candidate) website.

As one can see from reading the article. Islam is seen as inherently evil. The Bosniaks are Muslims and therefore, not worthy of any sympathy. Serbians are Christians, and therefore, on the “right side” of the argument.

Religion and Racism are the two dominant themes emerging from the far right. The only reason they support the Republika Srpska is because it is a “Christian” nation. Given the exact same situation, but change the religious affiliations of the participants, the far right would support the Bosnian side. Their Islamophoic stance causes them to see Bosnia only in a vacuum and to rely on conspiracy theories, racist talk and the rest to support their ideology.

However, what is particularly interesting is that Islamophobia has also been adopted by the far right’s ideological enemies on the far right to support their own version of genocide denial.

There is a distinction however between Islamophobia on the right and left.
On the extreme right, Islamophobia is a distinguishing feature. The religious affiliation of the participants in the Bosnian War is the PRINCIPLE reason for supporting genocide.

Islamophobia does not appear to be a distinguishing feature amongst the far left. Indeed, Edward Herman has been active in a pro Palestinian website.

Therefore, unlike the extreme right, the far left finds some Muslims (at least those who are seen as victims of US/Israeli imperialism) okay.

While religion is a dominant theme amongst genocide denial by the far right, the dominant theme of the far left, as I mentioned before, is a mistrust of US foreign policy and a belief that Milosevic’s Serbia was the beacon of a socialist state, defending itself from NATO-US.

What is interesting is that the far left in the instance of Bosnia adapts many of the same racist views towards the Bosnian Muslims as SUPPORT for their pro Milosevic stance. While for the far right the fact that Serbia/Republika Srpska is seen as Christian and Bosnia is seen as Muslim is the reason they need for demonizing the Bosnians.
For the far left, the fact that Serbia is seen as Socialist and Bosnia as a tool of the West is the reason they need for demonizing the Bosnians. However, to justify their pro Milosevic stance, the far left also uses anti Muslim sentiments that at time becomes difficult to distinguish between the racism seen on the right. Case in point this review of Diana Johnstone’s book.

“Yugoslavia was the first test case of this strategy. And it worked. The international right wing, led by the United States, was able to convince world opinion that Serbia was guilty of discrimination against a Muslim, or Slovenian, or Croatian, or Albanian minority, and that these communities should break away from Yugoslavia and form distinct countries led by their most reactionary, proto-fascist and Islamic fundamentalist leaders. In reality, as Johnstone documents, most often it was the Serbian minority in those communities that was being harrassed, murdered and “cleansed.”

Collusion with the most reactionary forces in these communities led the United States to fund former Nazis in Crotia and hire Muslim feyadeen from Algeria and Afghanistan. This international Islamic mercenary army created by the United States is the same army we are now fighting in Afghanistan and will soon be fighting in Iraq.”

The main theme one gets from the paragraph is how Serbia in the victim a US (and right wing! at that) conspiracy. However, the description of the Bosnian Muslims is very similar to the way the Bosnian Muslims are portrayed by the extreme right wing, which is of course the ideological enemy (or suppossed enemy) of Johnstone.

The use of the term “Islamic fundamentalist leaders” to describe the Bosnian Muslims paints the Bosniaks as rabid fundamentalists and terrorists. Much as the genocide apologists from the far right do. Furthermore, they also portray the Bosnian Muslims as the principle aggressors in this war; as do the genocide apologist stance of the far right.

Another example is an essay by Herman:

“It is clear that the objectives of the retribution-pushers are not justice and reconciliation-they are to unify and strengthen the position of the Bosnian Muslims, to crush the Republica Srpska, and possibly even eliminate it as an independent entity in Bosnia, to keep Serbia disorganized, weak and dependent on the West, and to continue to put the U.S. and NATO attack and dismantlement of Yugoslavia in a favorable light. The last objective requires diverting attention from the Clinton/Bosnian Muslim role in giving Al Qaeda a foothold in the Balkans, Izetbegovic's close alliance with Osama bin Laden, his Islamic Declaration declaring hostility to a multi-ethnic state, [65] the importation of 4,000 Mujahaden to fight a holy war in Bosnia, with active Clinton administration aid, and the KLA-Al Qaeda connection”

From this excerpt the principle concern of Herman appears to be the West’s desire to “keep Serbia disorganized” However reading the paragraph more closely, Herman also makes many of the same Bosnian Muslims = terrorists stance made by those on the extreme right. When mentioning the use of Mujahadeen fighters he does not mention the arms embargo against Bosnia, so the context of the Mujahadeen is not put in proper context. Furthermore, he does not note the use of “Holy War” fighters from Greek and Russia used by the VRS. This shows his blatant double standards. His statement on Izetbegovic’s extremist point of view has been effectively refuted by numerous sources, including: Ambassador Richard Holbrooke (in “To End A War”) and more effectively by Noel Malcolm in “Bosnia: A Short History.” Furthermore, Herman offers no source of reference for his assertion of the “close alliance” with Osama bin Laden. (The footnote given in the paragraph is in reference to an out of context very short synopsis of Izetbegovic’s book. ) But as one can see by reading the paragraph, when the Bosnian Muslims are mentioned by Herman it is context of being supporters of terrorists.

Further evidence of Herman’s lack of understanding of the situation in Bosnia is his use of the acronym “BMA” for Bosnian Muslim Army throughout the essay to describe the Army of the Republic Bosnia and Herzegovina. The fact that he does not even know the name of one of the belligerents in the war and that “BMA” is a propaganda term further shows the lack of credence to Herman’s analyses.

The use of Islamophobia to justify their pro Milosevic stance does not seem to bother the far left ideologues in the least. In fact, reading Herman and Johnstone, and anti Muslim stance is frequently mentioned as an additional reason for support of Milosevic’s “socialist” state. The fact that they have used the same racist arguments (albeit not as bluntly or crudely) as their ideological enemies does not seem to bother the far left deniers in the least. For them, the ends justify the means.

Although it has not had the same intellectual force as denial by the extreme left, apologist stance by the far right should not be ignored either. The use of racism either as the principle reason or as a supporting evidence to support a genocide apologist stance needs to be looked at.

Genocide apologist whether it comes from the far right or far left, or any place in between is equally condemnable.

For all of their disagreements when it comes to being genocide apologists, the far left and far right are merely two sides of the same coin.


Katja said...

I have noted the confluence of ideas in genocide apolgist/denial writings and rantings for a long time now.
Basically I see it this way, being Islamophobic is not socially sanctioned the way anti-Semitism has been for a long time.
If you compare the writings of NAZIs of the past with what Islamphobes are saying now, you will find chilling similarities.
What I want to know is how Serbia can be supported as 'Orthodox Christian' or Bosnia as 'Muslim' or Croatia as 'Catholic' when in fact religion was close to banned and nobody had a religious education in their respective religions?
My Bosnian Croat Catholic fiance did not know for example that in fact Catholic women are expected to observe modesty, and that the requirements are not all that different from what is required for Muslims! That in fact 'modern' 'Western' people fail to observe this doesn't make it a non-existant requirement!
He was on me to be more 'Western' and more 'modern' ie wear short skirts. At one point he mentioned it in front of an older Croat lady from central Bosnia, she was old enough that she had the cross tattooed on her hands.
She told him in no uncertain terms that having spoken with me at length, I knew about what Catholics should and should not be doing, and that he should not argue such points with me because 'Really she knows more about it than you do!'
She is older than him so she was born when a thorough religious instruction was still possible.
In fact at the time of her birth, the Ottoman Empire had barely been out of existance only a very short time. She was therefore raised with a correct Catholic education. I never heard from her lips words of hate toward Muslims, or indeed anyone else.
I've held the view for some years that the problem Christians have had historically with both Muslims and Jews is that Muslims and Jews visibly keep their religious law and Christians despite the fact our law is easier do not any longer.
The left in many cases has rejected religion but the psycholoigcal ties to 'religious heritage' still exist in the minds of leftists. Many lefties are lefties for some very 'Christian' reasons! They want equality and brotherhood, a mission which Christianity as an institution failed miserably to achieve, however much individual Christians may succeed in this.
Jewish appologists for massacre disgust me the very most. The prime examples being Mike Savage and his crowd. He's not even so far as I can determine an observant Jew, and he rejects much of American Jewish culture, which is left wing in many cases. He insults his own people but his worst venom is for the Muslims. He fails to see how there is extremism in all religions, particularly this is a flaw in the world views of many religions which have Last Days beliefs.
So basically Christianity, Islam and Judaism have a problem in keeping clear of certain forms of extremism.
I still say the greater adherence to religious law of Muslims and Jews makes them a target in the Christian and secular West, because to be observant is a visible thing.
It seems nearly every group of people needs an 'enemy' an 'other' an 'outsider' to scapegoat and persecute.
When Communism fell the Muslims were unlucky enough to be cast as the replacement enemy. Not that Islamophobia didn't exist before the fall of Communist states, it just got much worse.
Since the days of the Spanish Inquisition there hasn't been such massive social acceptance of hatred toward Muslims!
The funny part is that Diane Johnstone et al have some legitimate ammunition, not in the case of Bosnia-Hercegovina, but in the case of Afghanistan vs the Soviet Union.
Under the Reagan-Bush Sr. Administrations, the U.S. secretly and in some cases not so secret armed the mudjahadin who later in a few cases went to fight in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
That this happened in Afghanistan was a combination of right wingers actually prefering religious extremists to more moderate people in ANY religious grouping. This is because they are in fact Christian extremists in many cases, and because they felt the extremists were less corrupt. The local people in Afghanistan often seemed to have thought the same thing.
This of course turned out not to be the truth, in fact the extremists were as likely to deal in drugs as anyone else in the conflict in Afghanistan, or to fight dirty.
There were pictures of the Afghani Muzahadin in Newsweek, and Time magazines. They were then the 'good guys' because they were a terror to the Soviet Union.
There was as well funding of underground organizations within Soviet Central Asia and Chinese Central Asia. Usually these funds were channeled by dervish orders like the Nakshibandi order.
It was logistically pretty easy compared to doing anything in the Balkans actually.
Americans now don't realize that those now infamously porous borders were a lot tighter. Yugoslavs could come and go a good deal, but entry for foreigners was different then.
The AfghanChinese/Soviet borders were another matter, that area is so big, it's a lot like the U.S. Mexican border, crossable for the knowlegeable and deadly for those who don't know what they are doing.
Another thing is that no one is talking about all the Greeks and Russians who went to fight for Yugoslavia.

Shaina said...


Thanks for your reply.

I too don't get the people who saw the Balkan wars as a religious war.
They ignored the fact that none of the countries (especially Bosnia) were monolithic.
They also ignore the fact that although the leaders co-opted religious symbolism that the people of Yugoslavia as a whole, weren't particularly religious.
And that the goal of the war was ethnic cleansing and driving people away, relgion was merely a pretext.

Excellent point about Afghanistan.
About Johnstone etc. They bring up some good points about US foreign policy, but their analysis of the Balkans is so poorly cited, poorly research and biased that it is hard to put any credenence into what they say.
My biggest "beef" with them, besides them defending Milosevic as if he was a Serbian version of Abraham Lincoln, is how they show such a level of contempt to all of the victims.

Extremists are the same no matter what the religion is. And there is nothing scarier than someone who thinks that God is giving him the okay to kill or hate another one of his fellow human beings.

Owen said...

Shaina, the last thing I would accuse you of is "connivance" with the apologists! "Convenience" perhaps?

Shaina said...

Thanks Owen. I fixed it.
I should hire you as my editor ;-)