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re: [Marxism] Critique of Parenti on Kosovo

Rebuttal of comments from Louis Proyect


  • To: marxism@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: re: [Marxism] Critique of Parenti on Kosovo
  • From: Lippman Bros
  • Date: Mon, 12 Jan 2004 09:15:27 -0800 (PST)

By Roger Lippman and Peter Lippman

On Dec. 29, 2003, Les Evenchick posted a link here to
our Balkan Witness article "Kosovo: The Devil and the
Details" criticizing Christian Parenti's error-prone
article about Kosovo
(http:///balkanwitness.glypx.com/parenti-response.htm).
Balkan Witness is a website that presents first-hand
reports, histories, and commentaries on the Kosovo conflict.

Louis Proyect posted a response, which he kindly
forwarded to us. He added this introduction: "Somebody
recommended your Serb-bashing garbage to my email list
today." This suggests that we aren't just dealing with
a garden-variety Marxist scholar, but with someone who
over-generalizes and prefers attack to examination of
factual evidence.

Mr. Proyect makes no reference to anything actually
stated in our article. By "Serb-bashing," he could be
referring to any of our statements below:

* Parenti seems not to have noticed the Serbian
campaign against Kosovo's self-determination,
beginning with Milosevic's ascendance in the late
1980s and continuing through the widespread atrocities
that preceded NATO intervention by more than a year.
Parenti manages nary a word about the criminality of
Serbian actions in Kosovo. [For detailed references,
see http://balkanwitness.glypx.com/blum.htm.]

* The Serbian assault on Kosovo in 1988-99 left the
province with no government to speak of and precious
little infrastructure.

* Racism had a lot to do with the development of
Serbia's aggressive wars, which started and ended in
Kosovo. Yugoslavia began to fall apart with the
economic decline that followed Tito's death. The
process was exacerbated by the rise of fascism,
personified by Milosevic, who built his popularity on
bashing Albanians starting in the late 1980s and went
on from there. Serbs, including many in the opposition
now coming to power, have a racism against Albanians
that is as systemic as what is found in Mississippi.

* Milosevic's attacks on Kosovo neatly bracketed his
wars on Croatia and Bosnia. Taken all together, the
Serbian wars should make clear that Kosovo is the
moral and political equivalent of Chiapas.

Although Balkan Witness condemns Serbian Milosevic's
atrocities depredations against non-Serb populations
throughout former Yugoslavia, at no time does it
condemn the Serbian people. Indeed, it recognizes
Serbs as victimized by their own leaders, and as in
need of solidarity as any other people.

An interesting conversation could be had about the
points above, turning on the evidence that supports
them. But Mr. Proyect fails even to begin such
analysis, preferring to dismiss the whole article (and
the entire Balkan Witness website) with innuendo. It
appears that he didn't even read it to the end, since
he starts out his posted response by saying "This is
the website of Peter Lippman" Clearly stated at the
end of the article is that ROGER Lippman is the editor
of Balkan Witness. Since both Lippmans are authors of
the article in question, there is no room for
confusion here.

Mr. Proyect goes on to refer to the Advocacy Project,
for which Peter Lippman has worked. Since the AP has
received some funding from US AID, Proyect dismisses
everything AP has done, everyone connected with it,
and all associated websites, without a mention of what
they are about. Readers may wish to see for
themselves, at http://www.advocacynet.org, the
extensive advocacy work the AP has done on behalf of
at-risk populations worldwide - including
Palestinians, Afghan women, and indigenous Ecuadorians
and Guatemalans. Not to mention two million Kosovo
Albanians. Can they all be dismissed as tools of U.S.
imperialism? And somehow, the AP has managed to do
this without even a single member participating in a
Marxist chat group. (While we're on the topic of guilt
by association, it's worth noting that both Mr.
Proyect and Roger were active in TecNica, the
technical support project for Nicaragua, in the 1980s.
How will Mr. Proyect cleanse himself?)

Then the plot thickens - another Lippman brother shows
up. This one, Dave, is also a co-author of the Parenti
critique. But Mr. Proyect gets him confused with the
his brothers nevertheless and, referring to an article
by an unrelated party, finds it "disgusting" that, on
Balkan Witness, Dave charges certain Left luminaries
with "denying genocide." More on genocide denial
below, but here, Proyect has falsely attributed to
Dave everything on the website managed by his brother
Roger, while casting doubt on Dave's dedicated
progressive activism.

Recognizing that Mr. Proyect has failed to distinguish
between three brothers despite the evidence in black
and white, perhaps we can sympathize with, if not
forgive, his inability to distinguish the murderous
Serbian army from its Kosovo-Albanian peasant victims.

Denial

Getting back, then, to the question of war crimes
denial. Balkan Witness includes a page that exposes
those on the Left who have misrepresented the facts
about Kosovo. (See
http://balkanwitness.glypx.com/articles-deniers.htm.)
The site takes on some of the Left's stars and some of
its hacks. (The latter category includes Michael
Parenti, who can now be heard endorsing such Serbian
fascists as Vojislav Seselj.) One side effect of the
Left's confusion about right and wrong in Kosovo has
been that some Left icons, in demonstrating their
identification with regional warlords such as
Milosevic, have been brought down off their pedestals.
No commentator merits deification; the revered Noam
Chomsky has said as much himself.

Mr. Proyect is shocked - shocked! - and disgusted that
anyone would dare to criticize these sacred voices of
the Left. But nothing on the Deniers page is done
casually - it's all documented in great detail, and we
encourage readers to delve into the information
presented there. It's unfortunate that Proyect, in his
posting, doesn't have a single substantive thing to
say about that information. (And incidentally, it is
not Balkan Witness or any of its contributors, but
rather Proyect, who confuses the deniers of genocide
in the former Yugoslavia with Holocaust deniers. Marko
Attila Hoare's article, at
http://balkanwitness.glypx.com/hoare.htm, includes
an extensive and sensitive discussion of the
relationship between Holocaust denial and modern-day
genocide denial.)

What no one has satisfactorily explained is what
motivates so many on the Left to end up on the side of
the mass murderers in Kosovo and the genocidaires in
Bosnia. Ordinarily, progressives side with the
victimized and the oppressed. Perhaps this chat group
could come up with some useful theories.

Racak

Next, Mr. Proyect bumbles into the Racak massacre
issue. Another of Balkan Witness' major efforts has
been the compilation of an extensive study of the
facts surrounding the Racak killings. (See
http://balkanwitness.glypx.com/racak.htm.) Again
we encourage readers to view the information
themselves, but one point deserves special attention
here.

Mr. Proyect wonders why "somebody like William Walker
might inspire confidence." (Walker, with the Kosovo
Verification Mission, was among the first
internationals to come upon the scene of the Racak
massacre. He was previously one of Reagan's murderous
operatives in Central America.) One could ask, If a
tree falls in a forest and William Walker hears it,
did the tree really fall? A helpful discussion could
be had about how to regard the odd instance in which
an agent of imperialism actually tells the truth,
albeit for his or her own purposes. The Kosovo
situation is rife with such peculiarities.

Numerous respected scientists, journalists, human
rights workers, villagers, and independent researchers
have concluded that the Serbian killing of 45 Albanian
villagers in Racak was an unjustified massacre.
William Walker came to the same conclusion. One could
understand the Serbian perpetrators using his presence
to aid their propaganda efforts. But the widespread
acceptance of Serbian denial by Left commentators who
had every opportunity to know better is shameful and
outrageous - all the more so because it continues to
this day, while even more information is available
than a year ago. And Louis Proyect, using Walker's
name as a blunt instrument, has joined those who use
quotes around the word massacre in order to deny the
killing of 45 unarmed civilians.

NGOs

Mr. Proyect tars NGOs by their connections with
unsavory board members. The only way that most NGOs -
especially American ones - can survive is by
impressing private donors. Thus the perceived need to
station corporate names on their often symbolic
boards. Most such NGOs are benign relief
organizations. It is inappropriate to characterize
NGOs as "imperialist," without any argument about
their actual work, just because of the corporate
representatives on their boards.

From his objection to such connections, Mr. Proyect
derives a condemnation of the Balkan Witness website
that goes like this: Balkan Witness is Peter Lippman's
site (false). Peter Lippman is a member of the
Advocacy Project (no longer true). The reprehensible
Jock Covey (with whom Peter Lippman has no
acquaintance) is a member of the Advocacy Project's
board (which has met only once in the AP's five years
of existence). Therefore, Balkan Witness is an
imperialist apologist.

Finally, late on December 30, Mr. Proyect gets around
to saying something substantive, but it's too late -
he's already laid bare his prejudices and his careless
method. A couple of his points, however, deserve
immediate comment.

* For FAIR's willingness to buck the humanitarian
intervention consensus, they have been labeled as
"holocaust deniers" by Attila Hoare.

The above-mentioned article by Marko Attila Hoare (why
can't Mr. Proyect seem to get the name right) makes no
mention whatsoever of FAIR. That topic is covered in
an article by Roger Lippman, "FAIR Misrepresents the
Racak Massacre"
(http://balkanwitness.glypx.com/fair.htm), which
makes no use of the words genocide or holocaust.
Proyect cites FAIR as the source for information on
supposed ethnic cleansing against Serbs in Kosovo in
the early 1980s. In this, he relies upon and
misrepresents the already weak source used by FAIR:
David Binder of The New York Times. Binder, whom FAIR
proudly displays to buttress its anti-Albanian line,
displays his credentials in The New York Review of
Books, October 5, 1995, as part of an exchange with
the writer Robert Block:

"[H]aving spent much more time around Mladic and his
colleagues than Mr. Block, I strongly wish to
disassociate myself from his assessment of the general
as a crazed killer. Until compelling evidence to the
contrary surfaces, I will continue to view Mladic as a
superb professional, an opinion voiced by senior
American, British, French, and Canadian military
officers who have met him or followed his career and
who are better qualified to judge him than either
Block or I."

General Mladic, as is probably well known here, is
presently under indictment for war crimes in Bosnia,
including the massacre of over 7000 at Srebrenica.
(OK, all together now: "The Hague tribunal is
illegal!") We note that alongside those who deny the
Racak massacre, some also deny that there was a
massacre at Srebrenica - in spite of fresh admissions
of guilt from those who organized the massacre.

Mr. Proyect also writes:

* "For the Lippmans, a particular bright spot is the
town of Orahovac, which is now the site of a
worker-owned winery. When I did a Lexis-Nexis search
on 'Orahovac', I found some other interesting insights
into life there and nearby towns."

Interesting. With his prodigious Lexis-Nexis research
skills, Mr. Proyect has produced a single
four-year-old article that mentions nothing about life
in Orahovac and nothing about towns that, in the
context of the small territory of Kosovo, could be
considered "nearby."

Mr. Proyect engages in various other
misrepresentations in the same posting, but in the
interest of avoiding prolixity we will let those go
for now.

Along with some of his interlocutors, Mr. Proyect
appears to feel that all whom the US government
identifies as enemies should be defended. There is a
whole spectrum of weak thinking along these lines,
culminating in the defense of those who commit
genocide. This disastrous outlook originates from the
simplistic point of view, also subscribed to by George
W. Bush, that there is one evil force in the world and
one good force. But it is not so simple. Activists who
fight against the inhumanity of the American
superpower, in all its criminality, must also realize
that there are other, albeit lesser, criminal powers
around the world. The enemy of our enemy is NOT
necessarily our friend.

In the 1980s, Mr. Proyect and the Lippman brothers
crossed paths as activists in solidarity with
Nicaragua and El Salvador. Now, it's sad that,
overtaken by a Manichean splitting of absolute good
and absolute evil, Proyect and others like him only
selectively recognize fascism and genocide as the
enemy, and they rationalize the destruction of
villages and populations thought to harbor
"terrorists." This passes for the non-dogmatic
approach called for on this site's home page?

In our ongoing solidarity work and opposition to the
Bush agenda, we look forward to working with anyone
also willing to look non-US-sponsored fascism in the
face. It should be recognized that many people do so
without thereby compromising their opposition to US
imperialism.
Originally posted at http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2004w02/msg00017.htm

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