The American leftist who attributes the stories of mass rape to the American
imperialist propaganda machine
By Shon Meckfessel
Excerpted from Suffled How It Gush (Oakland: AK Press, 2009), page 306
Parenti’s book To Kill A Nation has been one of the most widely-read
critiques of the US involvement with the Balkans. And like much of the
authoritarian left, he adopted an aggressive the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend approach to the regime in Belgrade, made worse by his
conviction that Milosevic stood as a paragon of Socialism after the collapse of
the Soviet bloc. He repeatedly speaks of "Serbs" without regard to intra-ethnic
political differences, parroting the same ethnicism as those he critiques for
Particularly upsetting is his denial of widespread rapes by Serb forces during
the war in Bosnia.
nature and circumstances of the crime, exact numbers have been difficult to
establish; however, large bodies of first-hand testimony have been documented by
independent groups such Amnesty International, who Parenti cites elsewhere to
(correctly) implicate Bosnian Croat and Bosnian government forces.
essay "The Media and Their Atrocities" in the anthology You are Being Lied To
(Russ Kick, ed., New York: The Disinformation Company Ltd, 2001, pp. 51-55),
Parenti executes a sleight-of-hand in order to defend his chosen people. Parenti
begins by denying that sufficient numbers of Serbian soldiers were present in
Bosnia to carry out a rape-campaign of the alleged scale, as they were
"involved in desperate military engagements." Besides dishonestly contrasting
rape with "military engagements," this argument is belied by the speed with
which Serb forces conquered land early in the war. He goes on to quote one
dissident opinion within Helsinki Watch – without citing their name or his
source – as claiming that all stories of mass-rape originated with the
governments of Bosnia and Croatia.
next paragraph, without completing his argument concerning the events in Bosnia,
Parenti then moves quickly on to the events in Kosovo, and the propaganda
campaign carried out to legitimate NATO intervention. He quotes one official
from Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as saying that dozens,
not masses, of rapes occurred by Serbian forces in Kosovo, "and not many
dozens." Parenti then refers again to Bosnia in the last sentence of the same
chapter to refer to the conviction of a Bosnian Croat officer for failing to
stop his troops from raping Bosnian Muslim women in 1993.
third and final paragraph concerning mass-rape allegations, Parenti concludes,
"A few-dozen rapes is a few-dozen too many. But can it serve as one of the
justifications for a massive war?" Following on the inconclusive paragraph
concerning Bosnia, and the paragraph addressing Kosovo but ending with a
reference to Bosnia, the ambiguous antecedent of this summary gives the strong
impression – particularly to a reader unfamiliar with the area – that a
“few-dozen" rapes occurred in the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo taken together.
Parenti has managed to reduce tens of thousands to a "few-dozen." The author
then wraps up his argument in one idiotically opportunistic phrase, stunning in
its lack of perspective: "If Mr. Clinton wanted to stop rapes ... he might be
able to alert us to how women are sexually mistreated on Capitol Hill and in the
White House itself" (p. 52).
the article, Parenti writes: "A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for
Refugees talked of mass rapes and what sounded like hundreds of killings in
three villages, but when [journalist Audrey] Gillan pressed him for more precise
information, he reduced it drastically to five or six teenage rape victims" (p.
53). Not only had the commissioner exaggerated the numbers, he'd forgotten to
mention that the victims were teenagers. Which, Parenti's syntax bizarrely seems
to imply, makes the matter not so serious.
book To Kill A Nation, Parenti again hastily, if not viciously, dismisses
essential evidence in order to establish his case:
handful of rape-produced births that actually came to light seemed to
contradict the image of mass-rape pregnancies reported by Muslim authorities
and Western journalists. An Agence France-Presse news item reported that in
Sarajevo, "Bosnian investigators have learned of just one case of a
woman who gave birth to a child after being raped."
article cited by Parenti is dated March 1993, less than a year into the war in
Bosnia, itself assumably quoting a report published even earlier. Allowing for
the term generally associated with pregnancy, the low figure is hardly
Independent researcher Indira Kajosevic in her balanced essay "Understanding War
Rape: Bosnia 1992," gives a more honest account on the topic of
Shana Swiss of the Women's Commission of Physicians for Human Rights who
followed up the UN Reporter's investigation found 119 cases of pregnant rape
victims in a small sample of six hospitals in Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia.
Based on the assumption that 1% of acts of unprotected sexual intercourse
result in pregnancy, the identification of 119 pregnancies therefore
represents some 11,900 cases of rape [my emphasis- S.M. See
For Parenti, the Cold War never
ended, and the entire Yugoslav tragedy is explained as Capitalist Hegemony
conspiring against the triumph of Communism:
Why were the Serbs targeted?
They were the largest and most influential nationality in the former
Yugoslavia, with a proportionately higher percentage of Communist party
membership than other nationalities … Moreover, in the 1989 US-imposed
elections, Serbs and Montenegrins supported the former Communists over the
US-backed "democrats" in their respective republics. No wonder the Serbs
were targeted as the enemy.
[To Kill A Nation, pp. 81 – 82]
The excerpt above has been lightly edited for clarity.
Landmark cases on sexual violence in Bosnia and Hercegovina, prosecuted
at the United Nations International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
Mass Rape: The War Against Women in Bosnia-Herzegovina
By Alexandra Stiglmayer and Marion Faber, April 1994
Rape Warfare: The Hidden Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina and
Croatia By Beverly Allen, February 1996
Book notes, Journal
of Peace Research,
Rape Warfare in Bosnia and
Hercegovina: The Policy and the Law By Beverly Allen, The Brown
Journal of World Affairs, 1996
The Political Psychology of War Rape: Studies from Bosnia and
Herzegovina By Inger
Skjelsbæk, October 2013
Author's presentation, 2014