Human Rights Advocates v. US Government Propaganda (Re: bouncing ethnicity

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at
Tue Mar 30 14:12:53 PST 1999

-----Original Message----- From: Doug Henwood <dhenwood at> To: lbo-talk at <lbo-talk at>

>I never said it was simple, Nathan; it's the bombing party that's
>simplifying things. What's remarkable, though consistent, is the cycle of
>sanctification and demonization. ..Croats can go from perps to victims;
ditto >Albanians. And the U.S. opinion-making machinery is always an integral part of the >angel-devil cycle.

I really don't give a shit about the government opinion-making cycle. That is not where pro-bombing leftists are taking their cues. The human rights community never thought Saddam, Ceaucescu, Noriega or other former US "good guys" were ever models of human rights tolerance. And in the case of Kosovo, pro-bombing leftists have taken their cues from the consistency of the human rights community in denouncing Milosevic, even when the US government wanted at points to prop him up as a statesman who could guarantee the Dayton Accords.

What is remarkable is the consistency of the various human rights organizations in denouncing the murder and cultural genocide that has been underway in Kosovo. It is worth remembering that Milosevic came to power (against rival Communist Party members) specifically on the nationalist platform of repressing the Kosovan Albanian population. The political, cultural and economic repression in Kosovo has been intense and for years, the human rights community has been unwavering in its denunciation of the outrages in the region.

In fact, it is parts of the anti-imperialist Marxist Left that mirror the US government's inconsistency in shaping propaganda to downplay the human rights violations of those regimes that the US government targets, often flip-flopping denunciation of "US puppets" to support those "fighting imperialism." Sure there is a nuance or two of "critical support" with reservations, but the impression given by the weight of Yoshie's posts of Serbian support mirrors the US government propagand of war.

To be honest, my natural reaction during the early phases of the Yugoslavia break-up was to look for excuses for the rump-socialist Serbian regime versus the fascist-looking Croatia and other Western-oriented forces. After looking at human rights reports, it became clear to me (as to many others) that while Croatia may have a more despicable explicit ideological regime than Serbia-Yugoslavia, the actions and atrociites of Milosevic's regime are just quantitatively and often qualitatively worse.

Yes, this is nasty ethnic civil war and abuses happen on all side, but that is sometimes used to ignore the vastly disproportionate scale of atrocities and, more importantly, the PLANNED AND SYSTEMATIC pattern of terror initiated by the Milosevic regime.

Look, I really wish Serbia was a plucky outpost of worker-run socialism defying Western imperialism, but every human rights report by a whole range of folks I respect just does not support that viewpoint. Serbia has become a nasty nationalist dictatorship that has employed mass rape, murder and ethnic clensing as a normal tool of warfare and expansion. That view is not derived from US government propaganda but from the human rights organizations that have been pleading for various forms of intervention for years -- largely to deaf ears in the US and European Union.

This is a case of the US government following longtime human rights information, not the other way around.

--Nathan Newman

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