Articles on the Bosnia Conflict



Comments on Herman and Peterson's
Open Letter To Amnesty International's London and Belfast Offices
on the Occasion of Noam Chomsky's Belfast Festival Lecture, October 30, 2009

MediaLens censored the exchange below.

Raoul Djukanovic

Joined: 20 Mar 2004
Posts: 394
Location: UK


Sun Nov 22, 2009 6:06 pm

 Post subject:  

Let’s disentangle Ed Herman and David Peterson’s “convoluted themes”, as they call [1] Ed Vulliamy’s arguments, using language best applied to their own work, which (in their words) “touches nothing in this field without distorting it, creating and inflating evidence to [their] liking, swallowing hearsay, and ignoring and suppressing evidence that does not fit the desired line.”

To that end, let’s stick to facts, not Ed Vulliamy’s “disgust and despair” at Amnesty International’s invitation to Noam Chomsky.

Herman and Peterson claim that Vulliamy’s “mendacious demagoguery … would be hard to surpass,” then go on to reference an article they wrote for Monthly Review. [2]

Among its numerous other distortions [3], this work claimed that: “The claim that 8,000 Bosnian Muslim males had been executed there was based on a Red Cross news alert that its office in Tuzla had fielded 8,000 missing person requests: 5,000 for ‘individuals who apparently fled the enclave before it fell,’ plus 3,000 for ‘persons reportedly arrested by the Bosnian Serb forces.’ … But in a remarkable propaganda coup, the thousands of escapees and the deaths from fighting were forgotten and the 8,000 quickly became victims of execution and genocide.”

Actually, the number comes from a list of missing people, presumed dead, and of these more than 6,000 [4] have been DNA-matched to remains retrieved from mass graves.

Ignoring the steadily mounting toll of identified corpses, Herman and Peterson wrote that: “this initial 8,000 figure for the missing, now executed, males of Srebrenica has never been revised from its initial very problematic level. It has remained firm and unchallengeable, despite the fact that nothing close to confirming evidence has been forthcoming.”

Needless to say, they supply no evidence themselves as to the whereabouts of however many of the 8,000 they think weren’t killed, or to show how they died if they weren’t executed (a word used in an attempt to suggest that large numbers died in some other way than by being murdered by Serbs). They also ignore all the evidence [5] heard by the ICTY at The Hague, because it plays a “political role”.

Later, they write about “Croatia’s devastating attack and ethnic cleansing of some 250,000 Serbs from the Krajina, with over 1,000 civilians killed,” and claim “It is likely that more civilians were killed in this campaign than following the fall of Srebrenica”.

In other words, they’re insinuating that however many were killed at Srebrenica, most of them weren’t civilians. But they don’t say this outright, because they prefer to goad people into denouncing them, so they can come back and “refute” those who charge them with “denial”. Then they have the temerity to say that “journalists hate to abandon numbers that have fitted their biases so well.” Their own bias here is well established. [6]

As for Noam Chomsky, who (to quote Herman and Peterson) “has never denied or questioned whether there were displaced persons- and detention- and POW-camps in Bosnia - Herzegovina during the wars there (1992-1995), never denied or questioned whether Bosnian Muslims were massacred following the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995, and so on”, he continues to claim that a Guardian interview with him was a “complete fabrication”, because of one false reference to his use of scare quotes around the word massacre (in fact a fetish of Diana Johnstone, whose work he endorses), and a misleading headline based on the interviewer’s misunderstanding of his view.

It is hardly surprising that she jumped to the conclusion she did, when Chomsky still [7] says things like: “the Balkans are a Holy Issue in England, far more sensitive than Israel in the US,” as if insisting on accuracy were somehow deluded, when he calls Diana Johnstone’s inaccurate and misleading work “careful and outstanding”, though “it may be wrong.” [8]

Before that, he signed a letter saying that its outstanding essence consists of “dissenting from the mainstream view but doing so by an appeal to fact and reason, in a great tradition.” Would that be the tradition of “selective justice and no-holds-barred propaganda service”, to which Herman and Peterson refer?

I can find no mention in their writing here of the disproportionate numbers of Muslims killed or driven from their homes during the war. Are they some of the “unworthy victims” of Herman and Chomsky’s Propaganda Model?

The Monthly Review article deigns to mention them, but only to take issue with “the party line implication that the Serbs were uniquely killers and not major victims” of the war in Bosnia, thereby both inventing a position to oppose, and misrepresenting the known facts about who initiated a war of pre-emptive aggression. Herman and Peterson are presumably familiar enough with the modus operandi from the American emulation of it, which they oppose.

Even if Western propagandists exploit other nations’ crimes, that’s no grounds for assisting foreign propagandists in minimizing them, or denying the established facts, or the evidence for them.

Doing so most certainly amounts to “spitting on the graves of the dead”, as Vulliamy charges, and may even be “actively aiding and abetting in war crimes”, to quote a comment once publicized by Media Lens, when attacking people who tallied reported deaths in Iraq, because the number wasn’t as large as the estimates they preferred. [9]

As for Fikret Alic and all the rest, from the verbiage above an ignorant reader could be excused for wondering whether anyone was killed or raped in a Serb camp.

Herman, Peterson and their acolytes should start by revising their own distortions (hint: this is really “what an independent journalist or historian would call correcting the record”), and oppose Western policy without making things up.



[1] Deleted Thread: 'Open Letter To Amnesty International'


[3] For a critique of Herman and Peterson's distortions, see



[6] Srebrenica Massacre debate



Raoul Djukanovic

Joined: 20 Mar 2004
Posts: 394
Location: UK


Wed Nov 25, 2009 12:56 pm

 Post subject:  

Media Lens has just published an alert on related issues, archived here.

There is no facility to comment directly on alerts, except via the message board, from which I was banned several years ago. If anyone wants to copy this posting there, please feel free.

Otherwise, here seems the most logical place for it.

Date: 25 November 2009 11:39:49 GMT
Subject: Re: Dancing On A Mass Grave - Oliver Kamm Of The Times Smears Media Lens

Dear David and David,

With respect, your conclusion to this alert is undermined by the substance at the core of it.

You say that:

"Reasoned discussion and disagreement - and respectful tolerance of disagreement - are what free speech and democracy are supposed to be all about."

But it's impossible to respectfully tolerate fabrications, at least if one seeks reasoned discussion. Disagreements of interpretation are only possible if facts are established. When people misrepresent the known facts, that's not much help to anyone, however highly you admire the authors.

Mud also sticks when you don't clean it off.

Just as Chomsky tried to have it both ways over Diana Johnstone (he said that her work "may be wrong" but it's "careful and outstanding", and based on "an appeal to fact and reason", although it misrepresents the facts, and does so willfully, thereby creating his own "smear"), you say Herman and Peterson are "perfectly entitled" not to "accept the figure cited by Kamm and others" as if the numbers killed at Srebrenica were in serious dispute (give or take the uncertainty as to exactly how many corpses will be identified - at present the tally is well over 6,000 and mounting, despite the remains being "co-mingled" across multiple mass graves, which are still being unearthed).

As you know, Chomsky disputes nothing in the established scholarship on the massacre. And there really is nothing to dispute. Herman and Peterson aren't "brilliant and courageous"; they're cynical and manipulative, and "their facts, sources and arguments" don't exist, except in a parallel world where reality doesn't. The weight of evidence against their claims is conclusive, as Chomsky accepts. The "8,000 figure" is neither a "political construct", nor "eminently challengable". It is close to being fully substantiated with dead bodies, DNA-matched to missing people's names.

Herman and Peterson's wriggling about "executions" is disreputable. They cannot prove anything about who was killed how, and they know very well that their phrasing implies that the people didn't even die, but they will no doubt when pushed assert that they're only doubting how many were bound and shot. The most cursory reading of the known facts ought to acquaint you with the irrelevance of this point. If you doubt it, then start with the U.N. report on the subject.

This means that they're engaged in deliberate misrepresentation about mass killings. If that's not in your view morally equivalent to denying the extent of any other historical crime, including the Holocaust, then you need your moral compass reset, regardless of what you think of Oliver Kamm.

Yours sincerely,
Raoul Djukanovic

Joined: 20 Mar 2004
Posts: 394
Location: UK


Thu Nov 26, 2009 1:16 pm

Post subject:  

Thanks Rob B for posting the previous comment to the message board.

Aside from the general deference to Herman (as opposed to sourced facts), there have been some bizarre comments about suing people.

For example:

any lawyers out there?
Posted by jeff bowers on November 26, 2009, 12:41 pm, in reply to "More responses to latest alert"

I think it would be great is someone with some expertise would help the editors proceed with some concrete legal action (assuming there really is a legal case for liable -- the moral case is obvious). I don't know if he Editors would be interested in pursing this, but the point of medialens is to make a larger audience aware of how the media serve corporate interest not truth, and a legal action would put this message to a broader readership. It would also be satisfying to see Kamm admit he was wrong.


In most cases I would agree
Posted by emersberger on November 26, 2009, 4:37 am, in reply to "Indeed"

that he is a waste of time, but in this case his libel was so flagrant and determined that I think it is important that the Eds call him on it. I really hope they sue even though I know (from their previous experience with the Times legal threats) that it would suck up time and money - especially time.

Why not ask Noam Chomsky what he makes of these opinions?

Those expressing them might shudder to learn that they, like Emma Brockes, are "of course free to publish them, and I would, of course, support [their] right to do so, on grounds that [they make] quite clear [they do] not understand."
Raoul Djukanovic

Joined: 20 Mar 2004
Posts: 394
Location: UK


Thu Nov 26, 2009 3:04 pm

 Post subject:  

The editors of Media Lens have written to The Times saying the following:

Dear Sally Baker

You write:

"Mr Kamm refers not just to 'the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica' as you say, but to
'the recent history of the Balkans', and it seems clear to me that you do indeed
claim there is no 'mass grave', not least in your March 20 2006 MediaLens
article headed 'Disappearing genocide'." (Email to Media Lens, November 25,

Our 2006 media alert described how journalists had retreated from their 1999
claim that there had been a "genocide" in Kosovo. Oliver Kamm's comment came in
a discussion at the end of his blog, 'The Funny side of genocide,' focusing on
the massacre in Srebrenica, Edward Herman's alleged denial of that massacre, and
our involvement in promoting his alleged denial. No mention whatever was made in
the blog, or in the discussion that followed, of the death toll in Kosovo.
Moreover, we cannot recall Kamm ever accusing us of denying a "mass grave" in
Kosovo - his smears always centre around the massacre in Srebrenica. And yet you
are asking us to believe that Kamm actually had Kosovo in mind when he wrote
that we "dance on a mass grave that [we] claim isn't there because Herman told
[us] so". Kamm was clearly referring to Herman's supposed influence over us on
Srebrenica - the theme of his article.

In the 2006 article, Herman was not cited once as a commentator, only as the
editor of a book containing articles by other authors we cited. Nowhere in that
article, or in any other article, have we written that there was no "mass grave"
in Kosovo, or the Balkans, and certainly not because Herman "told [us] so".

But anyway, Kamm is very clear about which "mass grave" he had in mind. He was
asked by a reader on his blog:

"Dear Oliver, will yot please retract your libelous statement about Media Lens?"
Posted by: Josef K | 25 Nov 2009 14:25:21

Kamm replied;

"Josef K of Media Lens [sic], don't be silly. If Media Lens doesn't wish to be
identified with the cause of denying war crimes and the genocide at Srebrenica,
then there is an obvious course open to Cromwell and Edwards, its founders,
which is to stop promoting, praising and fawning over the work of Ed Herman,
which does precisely that."
Posted by: Oliver Kamm | 25 Nov 2009 15:24:30

Again, no mention of Kosovo. Josef K did not mention Srebrenica, but Kamm cited
that as the "mass grave" to which he had referred.

We understand that you can stonewall endlessly, but do you really think it is
worth the damage you are doing to your own reputation and the reputation of The
Times? We know that the journalist Jonathan Cook has written to you. As he says:
"it is incumbent on you and the paper you represent to show unequivocally both

"a) Mr Kamm was referring to Kosovo rather than, as appears plain from his
words, Srebrenica

"b) Media Lens has denied that mass graves existed in Kosovo

"Otherwise, readers like myself will be forced to conclude that the
professionalism the Times claims is a sham."


David Edwards and David Cromwell
The Editors - Media Lens

As already noted in this forum, it is untrue that journalists "retreated from their 1999 claim that there had been a 'genocide' in Kosovo," since next to none ever claimed there had been one. The facts are laid out here.

Instead of joining the editors in clutching at straws, Jonathan Cook ought to ask them why they continue to deny that by endorsing the work of Herman and Peterson (and telling subscribers that these "brilliant and courageous" apologists for Serbian warmongers are "perfectly entitled" not to accept the known facts), they are endorsing claims (for which there's no evidence) that people known to have been killed and buried in mass graves did not meet this fate.

One article, quoted above and referenced in their Media Alert, invites readers to conclude that the civilian death toll at Srebrenica was an 1/8 of its known size. That this duplicates the modus operandi of Holocaust denial ought to be self evident.

The editors of this website dissociate themselves from other equally unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. So why not this one?

Why do they persist in misleading other well-intentioned readers? What happened to facts being sacred?
joe emersberger

Joined: 24 Jan 2004
Posts: 457
Location: Windsor, Onatrio, Canada


Fri Nov 27, 2009 3:10 am

 Post subject:  


Hope you stop saying that they were banned from the Medialens website.
I also wish you would clarify something. Do you accept that Kamm's statement that the Eds

"“dance on a mass grave that they claim isn't there because Herman told them so”

was a lie?

Since you jump all over the Eds for not dissociating themselves from what you say are "distortions" and "conspiracy theories" I wonder if you woudl dissociate yourself from Kamm's lies.

I also wonder if you have some kind of principled oppostion to libel suits.
Should I be able to make anything up about you and not face any kind of legal consequences?
Raoul Djukanovic

Joined: 20 Mar 2004
Posts: 394
Location: UK

Fri Nov 27, 2009 7:24 am

Post subject:  

Sorry Joe, but the fact is that my message board password was revoked. Therefore I was banned. That's the prerogative of the site's editors, I guess, but it remains a fact, and not one that suggests much interest in open discussion.

Your pretence (posted to the message board) that I'm "saying that [I've] been banned from the Medialens website", as opposed to the main discussion board, shows about as much respect for standards of evidence as they seem to have.

I hold no brief for Oliver Kamm, whose political outlook I don't share, but the literal untruth of that statement is irrelevant (and assuming he has no pictures of the Davids doing a jig at Potocari, it is literally untrue).

Herman and Peterson are lying about something far more serious - the historical record. And Media Lens is promoting their work. There's no defence for that, and a libel action would be as successful as David Irving's.

As for the general question about suits, I was referring to the irony of the situation. Scrolling up to revisit Trnopolje ought to make that clear.

Raoul Djukanovic

Joined: 20 Mar 2004
Posts: 394
Location: UK

Fri Nov 27, 2009 8:38 am

Post subject:  

Just for the record, I should probably also point out that it's literally untrue to write, as Media Lens does, that journalists have "blood on their hands".
joe emersberger

Joined: 24 Jan 2004
Posts: 457
Location: Windsor, Onatrio, Canada


Fri Nov 27, 2009 5:00 pm

 Post subject:  


I think this exchange makes it pretty clear why you were banned from the message board, but you should not say (as you do at the Times site where "Newspeak" was reviewed) that you were banned from the message board without adding that you remain free to post at length and debate your views on the Medlalens site - as you do now.

I have little to say to someone who says that the truth or falsehood of Kamm's stament about the Eds is irrelevant. It certainly is relevant to whether or not Kamm is lying. He clearly did, maliciously, and is being defended by his deep pocketed employer - which highlights the depths to which corporate press, not just Kamm, can and regularly do sink. Don't understand why you feel the "lies" you accuse Chomsy, Herman and Pertserson of telling are relevant white the lies told by Kamm are of no consequence.

You snicker at the "irony" that Chomsky (whom on the Times stite you accused of lying about the Brockes interview) is opposed to libel suits. Yes, he is opposed to libel suits, on principled grounds, and I disagree with him on this. I don't think it really protects free speech to not challenge the corporate press with legal action when they or their employees deliberately slander people. Whether it is tactically wise to sue is another matter.

You say "I should probably also point out that it's literally untrue to write, as Media Lens does, that journalists have "blood on their hands"."

The Eds have explained very clearly what they mean by that as you well know and that makes your comment very silly. Kamm, on the other hand, has gone out of way to accuse the Eds of not only denying, but celebrating Serb atrocities in the Balkans. I'm glad you're not cluttering the message board with type of "argument".

I've not looked into the recent history of the Balkans but even without doing so find it impossible to take your wild allegations against Herman, Peterson and Chomsky seriously. The cases that I have looked into closely reveal that even liberal groups like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have a pro-western, pro imperial bias. Even these groups, never mind the ICJ or other bodies, have routinely inflated the crimes of western enemies and dowmplayed (or ignored altogether) the crimes of western allies. It would be extremely foolish to assume that any of these groups, posses an absolute truth about a historical record - especially about something as hard to nail down with exactitude (even through scientific methods) as a death toll.

The cases I have looked onto have shown that Chomsky and Herman (Peterson I am not as familiar with) have done careful, accurate and well argued work.

Kamm, on the other hand, when he isn't slandering people, is openly heaping praise on war criminals like Tony Blair. Not a tough call to decide whom I consider more credible. By the way, if you expect to taken seriously, as oppsed to satisfying some neeed to denigrate the Eds, you should, at the very least, stop saying that Chomsky "lied" about the Brockes interview. Incredible that you would say that even after the Guardian retracted the interview - which, stricly speaking, was not even an interview (with a Q/A format) but Broske's "recollection" of one.
Raoul Djukanovic

Joined: 20 Mar 2004
Posts: 394
Location: UK


Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:41 pm

 Post subject:  


If you're not interested in facts, then there's little to discuss, I agree.

1) Chomsky lied. He called the interview "a complete fabrication". It wasn't. There was one erroneous claim, and a false headline.

2) You say you know little about recent Balkan history. You should read up on it, instead of deferring to Ed Herman's misrepresentations of the known facts.

3) Oliver Kamm is irrelevant, because denying facts about history speaks for itself (and as noted above he is only doing what Media Lens does - exaggerating for effect). The promotion of work that denies known facts by the editors of Media Lens betrays an indifference to accuracy that undermines their critique of those who propagandise on behalf of the powers that be. Why they endorse demonstrably false work is bewildering. Presumably they, like you, can't be bothered to do the necessary reading.

4) I've consistently referred accurately to my ban from the message board, the primary discussion forum at Media Lens. That you wish to banish discussion about factual accuracy speaks for itself.

5) There's nothing silly about this. It's very serious.
joe emersberger

Joined: 24 Jan 2004
Posts: 457
Location: Windsor, Onatrio, Canada


Sat Nov 28, 2009 12:18 am

 Post subject:  

Okay I'll deal with point 1, where you claim Chomsky "lied" about the Brockes interview

I assume this is the quote you are referring to taken from a correspondece cited in your ref #7 above

Chomsky said to his correspondent

"As for the sources you cite, one of them (the Guardian interview) was known at once to be a complete fabrication, so ridiculous that the Guardian ombudsman quickly issued an apology and it was withdrawn from their website (over my objection — I think the antics of the media should be exposed). "

Unless you are referring to another quote then it is appaling that you cite this as evidence of Chomsky lying. To do so, you must interpret his words in an utterly proposterous way - that he meant every single thing Brockes wrote from beginning to end in the article (including the spelling of his name) was false. It is obvious Chomsky meant that that interview completely fabricated his views about what took placae at Srebreniuca - which is what the Guardian ombudsman addressed.

If this is an example of how recklessly you accuse Chomsky of lying then others, if not you, will understand why I consider responding to the rest of what you say as a waste of time.
Raoul Djukanovic

Joined: 20 Mar 2004
Posts: 394
Location: UK


Sat Nov 28, 2009 12:27 am

 Post subject:  

As you like, Joe. It's clearly a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts.

He also wrote to the Guardian that "Even when the words attributed to me have some resemblance to accuracy, I take no responsibility for them, because of the invented contexts in which they appear."

Which is blatantly misleading in itself.

But I base my comment mainly on a comment he made to me personally, which he and you will doubtless object to me quoting, as he declined my request to publish it here in 2005.

So I'll paraphrase. Nothing he said in the the interview has a remote relation to the truth. Allegedly. Except that none of his quotes were retracted by The Guardian.

This is in any case irrelevant, and the fact you choose to confine yourself to commenting on it speaks volumes. You have no interest in the facts about the Balkans. You're just playing ideological games, like Herman, Peterson and their promoters here.
Raoul Djukanovic

Joined: 20 Mar 2004
Posts: 394
Location: UK


Sat Nov 28, 2009 12:42 am

 Post subject:  

One other thing - if Chomsky (despite his doublespeak) disputes nothing about the historical record, yet Herman and Peterson do (without evidence, let alone refutation of the established facts), how does this compute in your binary worldview (as defined by you above)?
Raoul Djukanovic

Joined: 20 Mar 2004
Posts: 394
Location: UK


Sat Nov 28, 2009 7:24 am

 Post subject:  

And finally, since there seems little point pursuing this any further, it's worth noting that this whole discussion stems from demonstrably false material being endorsed, repeatedly, by the Media Lens editors, who've made no apparent effort in the years they've been circulating it to acquaint themselves with basic facts about the Balkans.

Were they to distance themselves from falsehoods, there would (and could) be no "smear" (which is an interesting choice of word, since it casually sidesteps the issue at hand - factual accuracy). Just as if Chomsky hadn't been so intent on goading Emma Brockes she mightn't have misrepresented him (though this is still questionable, since he was trying to have it both ways, as far as possible, while retaining what he saw as just enough wiggle room, which is one of his odd habits that acolytes seem to emulate, though they tend to do a more ham-fisted job).

So if anyone's denigrating the Media Lens editors, it's themselves. Moreover, your choice of the word "denigrate" is revealing. Does Media Lens "denigrate" journalists? One need only scroll up to see Herman and Peterson's line.

In conclusion, Andrew Marr's horror seems more insightful than you presumably imagine.

"I think it is just pernicious and anti-journalistic. I note that you advertise an organisation called Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting so I guess at least you have a sense of humour. But I don't think I will bother with 'medialens' next time..."

As if that weren't enough, it's anti-fact.
David Edwards
site administrator

Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Posts: 121


Mon Nov 30, 2009 10:21 am

 Post subject: Djukanovic ban  

Djukanovic is the former New York Times and Reuters journalist Daniel Simpson. We banned him from our message board several years ago for inciviilty and hounding, and have banned him now, also, from this forum. It is not at all, as he likes to claim, an act of censorship. Anyone who has a browse through these threads and on our message board will see that people vigorously disagree with us on any number of subjects. We welcome challenge and disagreement. But we do ask posters to observe some basic rules. For example:

"Incivility in any form is forbidden"


"Hounding others is forbidden"

Simpson has hounded us relentlessly for years whenever he gets the chance. His performance on Times Higher Education was an extreme, recent example:

He has described us as frauds, claims we're misleading people, that we're anti-fact, on and on. Reasoned, respectful criticism - which is what we try to provide - is one thing; a smear campaign of unrelenting hostility is something else. We're not obliged to host it here.

DE and DC
joe emersberger

Joined: 24 Jan 2004
Posts: 457
Location: Windsor, Onatrio, Canada


Tue Dec 01, 2009 4:37 am

 Post subject:  

I do not defend Simpson's behaviour on this site and elsewhere at all. I think that is made perfectly clear in the exchange I had with him above. However, I think banning him from the forum is a mistake.

Of course you are not "obliged" to let him post here - and you are not extacly the New York Times - so you have hardly impacted his ability to find an audience for his views. Nevertheless, I think it would be better to let him post here so that he cannot more easily mislead people into beliveing that no dissent from your views is tolerated on this site.

Additional discussion: On Media Lens, lying and the Balkans by Daniel Simpson, December 23, 2009

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