“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Posts Tagged ‘Marko Attila Hoare

The Second Coming of Joe McCarthy: David Gibbs Responds to Hoare’s Criticisms

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[Editor’s note: In the interest of an informed debate on this topic I have granted Professor David N.Gibbs a guest post to respond to criticism of his work by Dr Marko Attila Hoare.

I am very happy for any debate to take place in the comments pages below, but anyone tempted to contribute should first read my comments policy, make an effort to understand it and realise that their first post on this blog will need to be approved.

I don’t implement political censorship, but I do get a lot of spam from neo-Nazis, Far Right headbangers and some pretty nasty antisemites. So I hope that readers will be understanding. MB]

A guest post by David N. Gibbs.

“I see that Marko Atilla Hoare has been busy attacking my book, First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia
(Vanderbilt University Press, 2009)
. His attacks have appeared on his own blog site, Greater Surbiton, as well as on Modernityblog.

In undertaking these attacks, however, Hoare has omitted important
information, which readers have a right to know: That the book
presented an extended critique of Hoare’s own publications on this
topic, and so he is not a disinterested party. To be specific, my book criticized Hoare’s work for shoddy scholarship, which included mischaracterizing the ethnic makeup of the Yugoslav National Army (p. 252), omitting information that the US sabotaged Bosnian peace talks (262), providing an inaccurate account of testimonies before the Hague tribunal (274), and neglecting evidence of Al Qaeda involvement in Bosnia (280). I understand Hoare’s anger that I have criticized his work, but he really should let readers know when he has a vested interest in a book that he is reviewing.

And Hoare’s recent attacks contain major factual errors. For example,
Hoare claims that my book “suppresses the history of Serb mass killings of Bosniaks in east Bosnia in 1992.” Wrong. Here is what my book actually says (122):

As war began [in 1992], Serb forces launched a major offensive in
northeast Bosnia, taking over a series of villages of mixed
ethnicity, and then expelling most of the non-Serb inhabitants by
force. By the end of 1992, Serb forces had overrun large portions of
Bosnia-Herzegovina, and they controlled approximately 70 percent of the whole area of the country. The process of ethnic cleansing, for
which the war became famous, had begun… The Bosnia conflict
quickly became notorious for the scale of atrocities, especially
those perpetrated by Serb forces against Muslim civilians. The
widespread practice of ethnic cleansing was often associated with
the killing of noncombatants, and also the raping of women and girls.

Thus Hoare’s claim – that I suppressed information on Serb atrocities in 1992 – is baseless. Hoare is of course entitled to criticize my book, but he is not entitled to do so on the basis of fiction.

Hoare also claims that Gibbs “hasn’t bothered to engage with the
existing literature, but simply ignored all the existing works that
undermine his thesis.” He then lists five specific authors that I
supposedly failed to cite (Michael Libal, Richard Caplan, Daniele
Corversi, Brendan Simms, and Hoare himself). Wrong again. In fact I
cited four of these authors, each several times, and also included them in the bibliography. Hoare’s own writings were cited in four separate endnotes. His claim that I have ignored these authors is thus baseless.

I am unsure whether I should be more impressed by the extravagance of
Hoare’s misstatements, or by the sloppiness of his fact checking.

And there is yet more sloppiness: Hoare writes that the research for my book entailed “regurgitating English-language sources,” previously used by others. This claim is ridiculous, a point that will be evident to anyone who glances at the extensive list of primary sources in my 26-page bibliography. Finally Hoare implies that my book relies too heavily on the writings of University of Ottawa economist Michel Chossudovsky, someone that Hoare does not like. In reality I cited Chossudovsky exactly once (out of more than a thousand separate endnotes).

As is typical of his writing, Hoare grandiosely overstates his own
accomplishments and presents himself as a leading authority on the
topic of my book; he is not. In reality, my book was a study of the
international relations of the Yugoslav wars, a topic on which Hoare
has no qualifications. He also lacks access to German-language sources, which are crucial to understanding the diplomacy of this period. And given Hoare’s numerous factual errors, the scholarly content of his work is thin.

Throughout, Hoare creates the impression that my book was an extended
apologia for Serb conduct. This is wildly inaccurate. In fact, my book extensively described Serb atrocities in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo, and noted that Serb atrocities were much larger than those undertaken by other ethnic groups. I also discussed at length the nefarious role of Slobodan Milosevic in helping to make all of this possible, a fact that again runs contrary to the impressions created in Hoare’s review.

To state my position: I have no particular sympathy or hostility toward any of the ethnic groups in the Balkans, and present the facts as objectively as possible. Such is not the case for Dr. Hoare, however, whose work is heavily slanted against the Serbs, and in favor of their adversaries, especially the Croats. In making this point, I do not reference Dr. Hoares own ethnic background or his motives, since these are irrelevant. Instead, I refer to the content of Hoare’s writings, which represent an extended exercise in ethnic partisanship.

Let us now turn to Dr. Hoare’s “style” of argumentation. One his main
techniques is to attack the motives of his opponents. He does this in
recent postings on Modernityblog, during an argument with an anonymous blogger called Asteri. Hoare attacks Asteri as “a self confessed Greek nationalist” – as if this refutes his/her arguments. The response is obvious: Even if the blogger is a Greek nationalist, why should anyone care?

The blogger’s ethnic background and politics have no bearing on whether the substantive claims are right or wrong, and Hoare’s ad hominem attacks only serve to distract. Yet, ad hominem attacks remain a staple feature of Hoare’s writing style. All of this is not the mark of the objective scholar but of the polemicist – which is exactly what Hoare really is. Hoare’s ad hominem attacks would be perfectly acceptable on the talk radio shows. But they are discrediting for someone who poses as a scholar.

Another of Dr. Hoare’s techniques is to threaten writers who might
disagree with his opinions. In a recent posting to Greater Surbiton, he boasts:

A couple of years ago I sacrificed a couple of days of my life to writing a review that cataloged the numerous falsehoods and
distortions contained in the sensationalist anti-Muslim propaganda
tracts about the Bosnian war written by Christopher Deliso and John Schindler. Since then, I have never seen either of those books cited by any reputable author. If my review contributed to this happy state of affairs, then writing it was a worthwhile use of my time.

He also states that writers who disagree with his positions are “like
lambs to the slaughter,” who will surely “sacrifice any reputations
they might have.”

It is very unusual to see a professor boast publicly – in writing no
less – that he will destroy the reputations and presumably the careers of those who dare to disagree. Note also the venomous tone of his statements. Apparently, Hoare is not interested in refuting arguments through reasoned debate, since reason has no place in his method. Instead, he destroys reputations; and he seems to do so recklessly, without regard for the facts.

Now, I am a tenured full professor and am unimpressed by his threats.
And in truth, I plan to use some of Hoare’s more hysterical accusations as a blurb for future printings of my book; it will no doubt sell copies. However, I can well imagine the chilling effect that these attacks have on younger writers, who will feel constrained by the poisonous atmosphere that Hoare has helped to create. The overall effect has been to stifle free debate, by intimidating potential debaters.

In essence, Dr. Hoare and his network of neocon friends at the Bosnian Institute and the Henry Jackson Society have designated themselves as the new Thought Police, while conducting their own little witch hunt.
Anyone who wants evidence of this witch hunt can just click on Hoare’s website, which is pretty self incriminating.

If Hoare has a sense of fair play, he will attach this reply to his
website, along with his attack on me. He will also correct his more
egregious factual errors.

David N. Gibbs
Professor of History and Government
University of Arizona ”

Update 1: [From one of Santa’s helpers], Dr. Hoare has replied at Greater Surbiton, in a post entitled: First Check Their Sources: On David N. Gibbs and ‘shoddy scholarship’. Here’s a small extract:

I shall deal shortly with the specific points Gibbs raises, but let us first make this clear: it is wholly untrue that Gibbs’s book has ‘presented an extended critique’ of my own publications. Anyone reading Gibbs’s book without examining carefully the endnotes would not even notice that I had been criticised at all: my name does not appear in the text itself, nor in the index. Gibbs has four trivial quibbles with me, buried in his endnotes. Gibbs does not, as he now claims, accuse me in his book of ‘shoddy scholarship’, and has made this accusation only in his subsequent reply to me. I cannot help but suspect that he has only decided I am guilty of ‘shoddy scholarship’ after reading my critique of his book.

If my own mum, dad, best friend, girlfriend or granny had reviewed my work, and come up with nothing more substantial than Gibbs’s four quibbles, I’d feel I was getting off lightly and that they were being too soft on me. If all four of his quibbles were entirely justified, I hardly think they would mark me down as a ‘shoddy scholar’. “

Denial About Rwanda.

with 37 comments

I am indebted to Marko Attila Hoare for pointing me to the piece below by Adam Jones, and I freely admit that I rarely see eye to eye with Marko politically, but his work in shining a light on genocide denial is admirable and worthy of praise.

Marko’s new post covers genocide denial in the Balkans and Rwanda, and he points out the deniers’ techniques haven’t changed much over the years. Amongst them is how they will use an obscure source to dismiss a reputable one, mangle a source to change its meaning and intent, or link to a questionable piece of evidence to buttress their arguments. That is only for starters, deniers will use every disreputable method possible and do so consciously, which is why their actions must be vigorously opposed.

Adam Jones, a specialist in the field, takes apart The Politics of Genocide by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson:

“For Herman & Peterson to offer any evidence at all for their squalid inversion of reality, however, they need Davenport & Stam. There is almost nothing else in the scholarly literature that can be squeezed into their framework, even in denatured form. So in the process of bending Davenport & Stam to make them fit, they not only jettison their sources’ core conclusions and substitute their own; they toss out Davenport & Stam’s guiding assumptions as well! In preparing their statistical analysis of patterns of violence, Davenport & Stam divided Rwandan territory into zones that were government-controlled, RPF-controlled, and contested. Herman & Peterson aver that this is “problematic.” In fact, they allege, those whom Davenport & Stam deemed guilty of “the vast majority” of the killing were such a bumbling bunch that “it is frankly counterintuitive” to consider them “in control of anything” (p. 133). Really, it’s a wonder the poor dears could tie their shoes — let alone mobilize to massacre at least half a million Tutsis and oppositionist Hutus.

So now, “the vast majority” of the killing that Davenport & Stam specifically attributed to Hutu Power forces is thrown up for grabs. Herman & Peterson can seize upon Davenport & Stam’s finding that “when the RPF advanced, large-scale killings escalated. When the RPF stopped, large-scale killings largely decreased” to contend that this shows RPF forces were “the initiators and the main perpetrators of 1994’s mass blood-letting.” Davenport & Stam’s framing in fact fits with a picture of Hutu Power agents lashing out genocidally at Tusis, in spasms that correlate with RPF advances. There is a certain logic to that — panic and insecurity are frequently spurs to more frenzied killing — but there is no other evidence for it that I am aware of, and in any case Herman & Peterson’s “logic” is entirely different. They point out in their attack on me that in The Politics of Genocide, they do indeed note the incongruence between their arguments and Davenport & Stam’s findings. But they word it as follows: “Davenport and Stam fail to draw the most important conclusion from their superb work …” They don’t fail to draw the important conclusion; they draw the exactly opposite important conclusion. Davenport & Stam, apparently, are “superb” and credible authorities when their findings are convenient. When they are inconvenient, they must be ruled out as “problematic” or “fail[ing],” and replaced by rickety fabrications of Herman & Peterson’s own, mercifully unique devising.

It is perfectly legitimate, and important, to highlight these aspects of the Kagame regime, and to explore relatively understudied elements of the Rwandan genocide, its aftermath, and the wars and genocides in D.R. Congo. That inquiry is in fact well advanced, conducted by scholars with deep knowledge and an abiding understanding of Rwanda and the Great Lakes region. The long-overdue United Nations report leaked in August 2010, documenting in detail the Rwandan army’s role in genocidal atrocities against Hutus in Congo during the 1996 “clearing of the camps” and after, is clearly a watershed that no scholar or student of the region — and no analyst of Rwanda and the RPF — will be able to ignore.

It remains, nonetheless, malicious and profoundly illegitimate to deny the systematic genocidal killing of Tutsis in Rwanda, by diverse institutional agents of “Hutu Power,” from April to July 1994. Such brazen denialism is what Herman & Peterson have propounded, online and in The Politics of Genocide. In Herman’s case, this besmirches an often honorable career on the progressive left, though the decline was already well advanced — he has gained notoriety in recent years for efforts to obscure and deny the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, among other inexplicably reactionary campaigns.[5]”

Read Marko’s post on The bizarre world of genocide denial.

Update 1: Martin Shaw has also pointed out the inadequacies of The Politics of Genocide book and its endorsement by Noam Chomsky:

“All this is also welcome fuel for a determined group of Rwanda genocide-deniers. A new book by Edward S Herman and David Peterson focusing on the use of the term “genocide” in the media and academia – The Politics of Genocide (Monthly Review Press, 2010) – argues that the western establishment has “swallowed a propaganda line on Rwanda that turned perpetrator and victim upside-down” (p.51); the RPF not only killed Hutus, but were the “prime génocidaires” (p.54); there was “large-scale killing and ethnic cleansing of Hutus by the RPF long before the April-July 1994 period (p.53); this contributed to a result in which “the majority of victims were likely Hutu and not Tutsi” (quoted with approval, p.58).

Herman and Peterson state that “a number of observers as well as participants in the events of 1994 claim that the great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million” (p.58). But a check of the reference for this shocking statement finds no more than a letter from a former RPF military officer and personal communications from a former defence council before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (n.127, p.132) – both participants rather than “observers”. That is enough for these authors to dismiss the idea of “800,000 or more largely Tutsi deaths” as RPF and western propaganda (see Adam Jones, “On Genocide Deniers – Challenging Herman and Peterson”, 16 July 2010).”

Update 2: Returning to Marko’s comments on David.N Gibbs’ book:

Consequently, it has been with a certain inner groaning that I’ve become aware of the latest regurgitations of the old denialist narrative. One such regurgitation is David N. Gibbs, First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia (Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville, 2009). To give a foretaste of what you can expect of this book, Gibbs has this to say about the Srebrenica massacre: ‘Certainly, the murder of eight thousand people is a grave crime, but to call it “genocide” needlessly exaggerates the scale of the crime.’ (p. 281).

Needless to say, Gibbs has no academic expertise on the former Yugoslavia or the Balkans and does not read Serbo-Croat. He hasn’t bothered to engage with the existing literature, but simply ignored all the existing works that undermine his thesis. He has not tackled the evidence presented by Daniele Conversi, myself and others, that the Milosevic regime and the Yugoslav People’s Army deliberately engineered the break-up of Yugoslavia; or the work of Michael Libal and Richard Caplan, exploding the myth that Germany encouraged Croatia to secede from Yugoslavia; or the work of Brendan Simms, demonstrating that Britain’s intervention in Bosnia actually shielded Karadzic’s Serb forces from hostile international intervention. Instead, Gibbs has cherry-picked a few odds and ends in order to present the same old revisionist story, only with a larger number of endnotes than the previous versions written by Diana Johnstone, Michael Parenti et al. Yet he must know very well that his book will not survive a critical review by a genuine specialist in the field, that it will be ignored by all serious scholars and that it will serve only to confirm the views of the small, dwindling minority already committed to the revisionist narrative.