Monday, October 31, 2005

Chomsky the massacre denier

Emma Brockes's interview is a reminder of when Chomsky crashed and burned:

'Look,' says Chomsky, 'there was a hysterical fanaticism about Bosnia in western culture which was very much like a passionate religious conviction. It was like old-fashioned Stalinism: if you depart a couple of millimetres from the party line, you're a traitor, you're destroyed. It's totally irrational. And Diane Johnstone, whether you like it or not, has done serious, honest work. And in the case of Living Marxism, for a big corporation to put a small newspaper out of business because they think something they reported was false, is outrageous.'

They didn't 'think' it was false; it was proven to be so in a court of law.

But Chomsky insists that 'LM was probably correct' and that, in any case, it is irrelevant. 'It had nothing to do with whether LM or Diane Johnstone were right or wrong.' It is a question, he says, of freedom of speech. 'And if they were wrong, sure; but don't just scream well, if you say you're in favour of that you're in favour of putting Jews in gas chambers.'

Eh? Not everyone who disagrees with him is a 'fanatic', I say. These are serious, trustworthy people.

'Like who?'

'Like my colleague, Ed Vulliamy.'

Vulliamy's reporting for the Guardian from the war in Bosnia won him the international reporter of the year award in 1993 and 1994. He was present when the ITN footage of the Bosnian Serb concentration camp was filmed and supported their case against LM magazine.

'Ed Vulliamy is a very good journalist, but he happened to be caught up in a story which is probably not true.'

1 comment:

Caspar Henderson said...

Letters to The Guardian

Falling out over Srebrenica

Wednesday November 2, 2005
The Guardian

Emma Brockes's report of her interview with me (G2, October 31), opens with the following headline:

"Q: Do you regret supporting those who say the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated? A: My only regret is that I didn't do it strongly enough"

I did express my regret: namely, that I did not support Diana Johnstone's right to publish strongly enough when her book was withdrawn by the publisher after dishonest press attacks, which I reviewed in an open letter that any reporter could have easily discovered. The remainder of Brockes's report continues in the same vein. 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.

As for her personal opinions, interpretations and distortions, she is of course free to publish them, and I would, of course, support her right to do so, on grounds that she makes quite clear she does not understand.
Noam Chomsky
Lexington, Mass, USA

I am a survivor of the Omarska concentration camp. As such I was shocked by some of the views of Noam Chomsky in the article by Emma Brockes. Chomsky describes the revisionist work of a journalist, Diana Johnstone, on the camps and events at Srebrenica 1995. The importance of this issue is not about the number of people who were killed in and around Srebrenica, but about deliberate attempts to at best trivialise, at worst deny, genocidal acts committed by Serb nationalists in Bosnia.

If Srebrenica has been a lie, then all the other Bosnian-Serb nationalists' crimes in the three years before Srebrenica must be false too. Mr Chomsky has the audacity to claim that Living Marxism was "probably right" to claim the pictures ITN took on that fateful August afternoon in 1992 - a visit which has made it possible for me to be writing this letter 13 years later - were false. This is an insult not only to those who saved my life, but to survivors like myself.

Ed Vulliamy, Penny Marshall and Ian Williams were the first foreign witnesses to the existence of the camps at Omarska and Trnopolje, where Bosnian Muslims and Croats were incarcerated, tortured and executed in a manner that merits no justification. However, saying that Vulliamy "happened to be caught up in a story which is probably not true" has the effect of excusing these crimes. And because I was incarcerated in Omarska in August 1992, when Vulliamy arrived there, I guess I am also a liar. My experiences in that horrendous period, shared by thousands of others, were far from a "story". My imagination could never have anticipated the gritty taste of the cruelty delivered by an ugly collaboration of strangers alongside neighbours, teachers and schoolmates. My memories don't come from a storybook.
Kemal Pervanic

Author, The Killing Days: My Journey Through the Bosnia War