Dear Sirs:

I have read Leif Ericsson's piece on "Denying Guilt," in Ordfront Magazine of January 2004 with considerable dismay. One problem I have with his article, and with your publishing it, is that he refers to my critique of his Dagens Nyheter letter of November 25, but you have failed to make available to your readers the actual content of that critique. In that critique I made the case that Ericsson had not supported a single charge of "inaccuracy" that he leveled against Johnstone, and I showed that he had made a series of erroneous statements. In "Denying Guilt" Ericsson fails to respond to a single one of my charges, which if correct would lead to the conclusion that his journalism is fatally flawed. Is it ethical journalistic practice to allow him to attack me without my original being shown and with Ericsson still failing to answer my serious charges?

Where Ericsson does mention my name, once again he is incapable of getting his facts straight. He says that I claimed that Nasir Oric "probably killed more people in Srebrenica than what the Bosnian Serbs did." This is a straightforward lie: I never said any such thing at any time, and in fact never even mentioned Oric in my letter criticizing his Dagens Nyheter letter. He says that it is my "unchangeable conclusion" that "there were no concentration camps and no systematic killing," which he presumably infers from what I said about Fikret Alic and the use of his photo in a review of Johnstone's book. Fikret Alic was in fact in transit through Trnopolje--he was not killed, and did leave Trnopolje, and the photo was designed falsely to show him behind barbed wire--so once again Ericsson misrepresents my position and the meaning of our focus on this fraud. One would think that an honest journalist would consider a photo fraud something to be condemned, but Ericsson does not condemn it because it fits the higher truth that he wishes to convey.

Ericsson speaks of a "strong ideological conviction" that apparently makes me and Johnstone "impenetrable to facts." He stands the truth on its head-it is he who has an overwhelmingly strong ideological conviction and is impenetrable to facts. This is why he made the stream of errors on Johnstone that I listed in my letter: For example, Johnstone was allegedly guilty of suggesting that thousands of Bosnian Muslims escaped from Srebrenica to Muslim territory-Ericsson couldn't accept this because it doesn't fit his ideological demand that nobody escaped from Srebrenica, and the readily available facts on the case, which Johnstone and I cited, were therefore inadmissible. Similarly, the inconvenient evidence that Johnstone and I cite on Racak doesn't fit his good/evil preconceptions, so that evidence was also inadmissible, and as I showed, he even repeatedly misrepresented his preferred source Helen Ranta.

Ericsson's overwhelming bias is most clearly displayed in his extremely simple-minded appeal for "a common narrative" that will call the villains villains, victims victims, "and [cause] assailants [to] get their punishment...Such a narrative makes reconciliation possible." He then refers to the Holocaust and Holocaust denials. He is clearly of the opinion that recent Yugoslav history is of bad men like Hitler and the Nazis killing innocent victims like Jews, with Milosevic and the Serbs in the Nazi role. This analogy rests on profound bias, profound ignorance, and an inability to cope with complexity, but it is greatly helped along by the inadmissibility of inconvenient facts. Let me list a few inadmissible points that will not fit the NATO party line that Ericsson uses as a Procrustean bed to which all facts must conform.

First, all serious studies of the breakdown of Yugoslavia give heavy weight to the German, Austrian, Vatican, and general EU support for the unmediated and unvoted exit of Slovenia and Croatia from Yugoslavia, and then for the unconstitutional exit of Bosnia, with no provision for the relocation of stranded minorities (and in fact opposition to their movements into preferred new states) as a key element in producing wars over space and ethnic cleansing. Johnstone of course stresses this, but so does everybody else of seriously scholarly bent. Second, it is also well established, and is clearly stated in Lord David Owen's Balkan Odyssey and Susan Woodward's Balkan Tragedy, as well as in Johnstone's book, that the failure of negotiations in Bosnia from 1992 onward was attributable in large part to the fact that Izetbegovic, with U.S. encouragement, balked time and again in hopes of getting more territory, with the assistance of NATO force that he eventually did succeed in mobilizing. Milosevic was eager for a settlement, as he wanted sanctions on Yugoslavia lifted, and he was several times at serious odds with the Bosnian Serbs, who were more difficult, although less so than Izetbegovic. I believe that these historical facts are inadmissible and will not make it into Ericsson's "common narrative" of good and bad guys.

Third, the Yugoslav government submitted a Letter to the UN on May 24, 1993 on "War Crimes and Crimes and Genocide in Eastern Bosnia...Committed Against the Serb Population from April 1992 to April 1993 ." This document describes the "almost complete ethnic cleansing of Serbs" from Srebrenica before the autumn of 1992, and lists 12 settlements and 39 villages destroyed and burnt down by Bosnian Muslim forces, with about 1,200 killed and between 2,800 and 3,200 injured. The almost complete ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Srebrenica described in this document is supported by UNHCR monthly reports, which also show that all the so-called "safe zones" were substantially cleansed of Serbs before July 1995. Half of the Serb population of the overall area had been driven out by then. This report includes scores of affidavits from Serb victims, who were often able to name the Bosnian Muslims who attacked them.

An even more extensive document was produced by the Serbian Council Information Center on "Persecution of Serbs and Ethnic Cleansing in Croatia 1991-1998," with massive data on killings, destruction of homes, and enforced flight, similar in character to the data put forward by the Tribunal in its focus on the persecution of Bosnian Muslims. It is extremely doubtful that Leif Ericsson has looked at this kind of evidence, because it deals with the wrong victims and is therefore inadmissible. I believe his "common narrative" will not include these victims and will therefore not do much to bring about reconciliation.

Fourth, these Serb documents cover the ethnic cleansing of the Serbs in the Croatian Krajina area. This involved the forced removal of some 250,000 Serb inhabitants, with unknown but substantial numbers killed, the victims being unarmed civilians. This was possibly the largest single episode of ethnic cleansing in the Balkan wars. It was aided by the United States, and led to no indictments by the Tribunal. Its responsible leader Tudjman was allegedly "under investigation" by the Tribunal when he died in December 1999. Similarly, Izetbegovic was "under investigation" when he died in 2003. No doubt Ericsson's "common narrative" will explain this odd course of justice in which the ethnic cleansers supported by the NATO powers somehow escaped indictment, but very possibly for him Tudjman and Izetbegovic were merely victims of the bad man in his simple world of good and evil.

Fifth, it is now very clear that in the early and mid-90s, with U.S. and Saudi help, thousands of mujahadin and Al Qaeda warriors were brought into Bosnia from Afghanistan and elsewhere to help the Bosnian Muslims fight for their territorial claims. Osama Bin Laden was among these guests, and he also visited the allied KLA in Kosovo. These fighters were aggressive and vicious and their jihadist cruelties were described in the Serb documents mentioned earlier, but almost never in the Western media. The Al Qaeda continuing presence in Bosnia and Kosovo is troublesome to the Western powers, but I suspect that their history in Bosnia and Kosovo will not show up in Ericsson's common narrative.

Sixth, following the NATO war against Yugoslavia, and under NATO auspices, Kosovo was subject to what Jan Oberg described as "the largest ethnic cleansing in the Balkan wars" (in percentage terms). What is more, this cleansing was wide-ranging, with Turks, Jews and Roma being driven out by the Kosovo Albanians along with the Serbs. Not only were the Serbs killed and driven out on a large scale (contrary to the pledges of tolerance in Security Council Resolution 1244 that ended the bombing war in June 1999), the Kosovo Albanians systematically attacked all Serb cultural institutions, including some 112 Orthodox churches and monasteries destroyed or seriously damaged (a list of 76 such churches destroyed or desecrated between June and October 1999, with many photos, is given in a Serb document entitled Crucified Kosovo, published in late 1999). The Roma were not discriminated against by the Serbs, but as described by Voice of Roma in "The Current Plight of the Kosovo Roma" (Sebastapol, CA, 2002), after the NATO occupation of Kosovo a "systematic campaign of persecution and ethnic cleansing of the Roma by extremist ethnic Albanians" took place that "some have characterized as genocide." An estimated 12,600 Roma homes have been destroyed, many were killed, and a large fraction of the Roma have left Kosovo. I would wager that Ericsson has never written on the ethnic cleansing of the Roma and others in post-bombing Kosovo-now sometimes described as " a largely outlaw province" and "the republic of heroin" (Isabel Vincent, "Crime, terror flourish in 'liberated' Kosovo," National Post [Canada], Dec. 10, 2003)--and I suspect that the Roma experience will not become part of Ericsson's "common narrative" that will facilitate reconciliation.

Ericsson speaks of Johnstone's and my "diminish[ing} the excesses and the number of non-Serbian victims." But while Johnstone and I never denied significant killings by the Bosnian Serbs, Ericsson has completely disappeared the excesses and numbers of Serb and Roma victims. For Ericsson, even DISCUSSING the possibility of inflated counts of his preferred victims is illegitimate. He says that Johnstone "is biased in picking her facts," but whereas Johnstone admits and discusses a wide range of facts, Ericsson ignores ALL facts that interfere with his NATO party line--he selects a Helen Ranta as truth teller and ignores her colleagues writing in a scientific journal as well as other credible sources on the Racak incident like two distinguished French journalists without an axe to grind. And as I pointed out he even misrepresents Ranta. He can't bear the notion that significant numbers of Bosnian Muslims escaped Srebrenica, so he mentions this as a Johnstone "inaccuracy," when in fact it is a widely acknowledged fact. This is bias and journalistic ineptitude at its very worst.

Ericsson mentions that Johnstone and I have harshly criticized the Tribunal as a politicized institution. He says that we reject "indisputable facts" by the Tribunal "in advance." This is another misrepresentation. We accept many Tribunal-based facts as true, but we consider the institution to be hugely biased in selecting cases and in its methods of obtaining witness support. We consider it an arm of NATO, and we have written many pages in support of this claim, and we are not alone in this view. But Ericsson treats the Tribunal as sacrosanct, presumably apolitical and seeking justice, with its facts-including confessions by witnesses under plea bargaining threats-as indisputable. This is incredibly naïve and once again ignores crucial facts-like the funding of the Tribunal, its staffing, the vetting of the prosecutors by Madeleine Albright, and its detailed service to NATO policy. For example, in May 1999, in the midst of the 78-day bombing war, when NATO began to bomb Serbian civilian facilities in order to obtain quick surrender, in blatant violation of the rules of war and with criticism of the bombing growing, prosecutor Louise Arbour rushed out an indictment of Milosevic based on unverified information given her by U.S. intelligence. This served to distract attention from the bombing onto the evils of the Serb leadership and provided a valuable public relations cover justifying the bombing. This kind of crude but well designed service was repeated time and again. Ericsson cannot recognize this or question the Tribunal because in his simple "common narrative" the Tribunal is good, serving justice.

Ericsson cites a Tribunal conclusion that General Kristic was guilty of the murder of thousands of Bosnian Muslims. He is incapable of grasping the fact that with unlimited resources any Tribunal organized with a purpose could get victims of a war, and even some of the aggressors (seeking plea bargaining concessions on prison terms), to claim or admit having killed many innocents. A Tribunal could easily have placed Izetbegovic, his paramilitaries like Nasir Oric, his generals, and his mujahadin allies in the same position as Milosevic, Arkan, Krstic and others, if power could have been mobilized in that direction. (Nasir Oric's indictment came very late in the game, and like several others seems to have been timed as a response to criticism of the Tribunal's extreme one-sidedness.) Milosevic's indictment in May 1999 was nominally based on the killing of 385 Kosovo Albanians at the onset of the bombing war (although these were unverified by the Tribunal and Milosevic's direct responsibility had not been established). By contrast, in response to a huge and detailed petition asking that NATO be indicted for killing many hundreds of Serb civilians by bombing deliberately directed at civilian sites, Carla Del Ponte declined to even investigate this charge because her office found that 500 deaths attributable to NATO were too few to rate-"there is simply no evidence of the necessary crime base for charges of genocide or crimes against humanity." So for Milosevic, 385 is a sufficient crime base for an indictment, but for NATO 500 is too slight to even support an investigation! Can there be any doubt that an unbiased Tribunal could have come to a different assessment-and that its pronouncements must be evaluated accordingly? But for a true believer in a NATO-friendly common narrative, these awkward facts must be ignored.

In sum, Ericsson's "Denying Guilt" is a journalistic disaster and disgrace, that repeatedly misrepresents what Johnstone and I have said, continues to produce new factual errors, and while accusing us of ideological bias and selectivity, displays his own ideological bias and selectivity to a degree that would be hard to match. He is a crude apologist for the NATO war against Yugoslavia, and an incompetent one at that, as his apologetic fails to withstand the slightest scrutiny. He has yet to answer a single one of the dozen charges I levied at his groveling letter of November 25 in Dagens Nyheter, and in "Denying Guilt" he simply adds to the list of his misrepresentations and plain errors. It is sad for Sweden and the world that such drivel can be published by a chief editor of a publication supposedly on the left.

Sincerely, Edward S. Herman

Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania


Leif Ericssons artikel, Att förneka skulden

Hermans svar är mig veterligen inte publicerat än

av svenska tidningar..../ Gunnar T. 040120

OBS svaret ovan publicerades i Ordfront nr 3, 0403