Monty Python and the Balkan Islamofascist division
Author: Marko Attila Hoare
Uploaded: Friday, 30 November, 2007
The myth that wartime B-H leaders were tainted by a past of Nazi collaboration half a century earlier is demolished by Marko Attila Hoare on his recently launched 'Greater Surbiton' weblog
Among political ‘dissidents’ of one kind or another, it is frequently taken for granted that almost everything about international affairs you read in the daily papers or see on the news is simply imperialist propaganda, which the ruling classes disseminate in order to hoodwink the brainless common people into supporting their policies. Perhaps more than any other part of the world, the former Yugoslavia is portrayed as the place against which imperialist propaganda most frequently sins. All those who for one reason or another were sympathetic to the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic or hostile to the Bosnian Muslims, felt compelled to justify themselves with the claim that Serbian atrocities in the 1990s were massively exaggerated by the imperialist media and/or that Alija Izetbegovic’s Bosnian regime was itself responsible for the bloodshed. This line then gelled with the same folks’ discourse on the Iraq war, whether for or against; it being either claimed that the US had no business preaching about a war against Islamist terror when it had itself supported Izetbegovic’s ‘Muslim fundamentalists’ against the innocent Serbs, or that the war on terror retrospectively proves that the US backed the wrong side in the Yugoslav war. To maintain either of these positions requires conflating the moderate Bosnian Muslims led by Izetbegovic with the genuine Islamofascists of al-Qa’ida - a difficult trick to pull off. In this article we shall show just how difficult it is, by analysing a popular myth of the anti-Muslim lobby: that Bosnia’s Izetbegovic was an Islamofascist who revived the politics of the SS in the Balkans. And there is no better place to start than with our old friend Neil Clark, whose statements on the topic are unfortunately entirely representative of a wider circle of Milosevic supporters and Islamophobes. Indeed, compared to some, Neil ‘Milosevic - prisoner of conscience’ Clark is veritably moderate.
Clark is something of a celebrity as he has recently won this year’s ‘Best UK Blog’ award. Out of a total number of UK bloggers that Clark himself estimates at 4 million, his blog came first with the impressive tally of 1,116 votes, although some of his more zealous supporters in this contest, such as his frequent sparring-partner Oliver Kamm, admit to having voted for Clark many times over (in Oliver’s case, perhaps for ironic reasons). Be that as it may, Clark is justly proud of having captured what he describes as ‘the most prestigious prize in blogging’, which he attributes to the fact that ‘the positions I espouse are (unlike the self-appointed uber elite of bloggers) in tune with the views of the majority of ordinary people.’ I should like to take this opportunity to offer Neil my congratulations.
Clark is perhaps best known for his admiration of the late Slobodan Milosevic, of whom he famously said that ‘his worst crime was to carry on being a socialist.’ He has, consequently, acquired something of a reputation as a Balkan expert among the ranks of both left-wing and right-wing Milosevic supporters. So it is reasonable that he should have a go at fellow Balkan expert Michael Palin of Monty Python for not being sufficiently well informed on recent Balkan history. Apparently, Palin’s sin was to remark that Milosevic had ‘died of a heart attack at The Hague after his conviction for war crimes.’ Clark points out that Milosevic died without being convicted.
And now for something completely serious. Although comical in the eyes of any normal person, Clark is simply one of a number of Milosevic supporters who have been promoting the line that the late Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic was a supporter of the SS in Bosnia during World War II. In fact, in this group, Clark’s views have been far from the most outlandish. Others have gone so far as to claim that Izetbegovic was a supporter of the SS during the recent war in Bosnia as well. Yet these more radical elements have arrived at their interpretation through strict adherence to the Neil Clark methodology in historical research. What they all have in common is a desire to rehabilitate Milosevic while demonising the Muslim inhabitants of the Balkans, thereby countering the perceived brainwashing of the human race by imperialist propaganda.
Readers may remember that early last year, in a debate at Harry’s Place, Clark was unable to provide any evidence to back up his assertion that Izetbegovic had recruited for the SS during World War II. This is an old story that has been extensively discussed by Oliver Kamm, among others, and there is no need to go into it again in detail here. The long and the short of it is that, as far as I can tell, the rumour that Izetbegovic recruited for the SS began with a letter allegedly sent by Milan Bulajic (a Srebrenica-denying Serbian historian), to David Binder (an American journalist known for his admiration of Serb Nazi-collaborator Momcilo Djujic and indicted Serb war-criminal Ratko Mladic), claiming that he (Bulajic) had learned of Izetbegovic’s pro-SS activities through studying the transcript of his post-war trial by the Communist authorities in Bosnia (it should be noted here that Izetbegovic was not tried as a war-criminal or as a collaborator, but because of his political opposition to the Communist regime). The claim that the teenage Izetbegovic recruited for the SS during World War II thus remains entirely unproven, and will remain so unless Bulajic or anyone else can produce evidence to support it. Nevertheless, the rumour of Izetbegovic’s ‘SS past’ circulated among pro-Milosevic conspiracy theorists until it was picked up by Clark, via an obscure US-based outfit called the ‘International Strategic Studies Association’ (ISSA), as Kamm has explained here. The article on which Clark based his claim against Izetbegovic was this one, written by a certain Vojin Joksimovich.
Although Clark has become an object of ridicule for many of us (for reasons that Stephen Pollard summarises here), his treatment of Balkan affairs is entirely representative of his wider circle. For example, among the many factual errors that Joksimovich makes is his claim that Izetbegovic’s close political collaborator Hasan Cengic was a ‘veteran of the 13th Waffen SS Division’. Cengic was, it should be pointed out, born in 1957, and therefore might have found it difficult to serve in the SS. Nevertheless, this accusation against Cengic was repeated by other members of this circle, including Yossef Bodansky, ‘Director of Research’ at the ISSA and a pioneer in demonising the Izetbegovic regime. Another such conspiracy theorist, a certain Peter Robert North, turned up on Clark’s blog to push the line that Cengic had indeed served in the SS twelve years or so before he was even born.
North has written elsewhere that ‘Alija Izetbegovic RESURRECTED this NAZI SS DIVISION back in the early 90’s at the beginning of the war [in Bosnia] ’ [emphasis in original]. This same claim was made by members of a US-based circle of Milosevic supporters and Srebrenica deniers, including Francisco Gil-White, who claimed that ‘Alija Izetbegovic in Bosnia proudly recreated the Nazi SS Handzar Division’. Gil-White’s collaborator, the ex-Maoist Jared Israel of the Milosevic-supporting, Srebrenica-denying website Emperor’s Clothes, also makes much of a supposedly recreated Handzar division in Ize