By Stephen Schwartz
October 22, 2018 – Joseph Stalin is said to have remarked, “The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.”
I am reminded of this when pondering the death of Jamal Khashoggi, martyr for liberty. The Saudi authorities have now admitted that Khashoggi died in their consulate in Istanbul, on October 2, 2018.
I am 70. In my childhood I saw a world that had undergone unspeakable atrocities in years close to my own: the Holocaust of the Jews, the Russian purges, the bombing of Guernica, the rape of Nanjing.
We believed we lived in a newer and better world.
We were, of course, wrong. As a teenager I learned of the cruelties imposed on Blacks in the American South and their allies, white liberals, lynched and mutilated.
In my life, one atrocity stands out: the massacre in July 1995 of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, a lovely little town, between mountains and rivers, in the small country of Bosnia-Hercegovina.
The dead of Srebrenica were killed by Serbian fascism; one plague, many viruses, many victims. Serbofascism is as present and dangerous to the world as that of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, or Muhammad bin Salman, aka MbS or “Mister Bone Saw.”
My memories of Srebrenica are many. I was in the Balkan region when it occurred. I had flown to Bucharest in Romania, and as the jetliner headed across the former Yugoslavia from Vienna, I noticed aircraft trails in the sky over eastern Bosnia. I wondered what was taking place. I had a twinge of satisfaction that I was probably safe in an international flight. That was 12 years after the Russian shootdown of Korean Air Lines 007 in 1983. The Russian shootdown of Malaysian Airlines 17 in 2014 was 19 years in the future.
Russian fascism, Islamofascism, Serbian fascism… funny how that works. One octopus, many tentacles, many victims.
Many details of Srebrenica moved me. I felt guilt about speaking in Bucharest regarding the poetry of Paul Celan (who had lived there) when innocents were being slaughtered. I learned eventually that the victims were chosen for death first according to who carried tespih, or Muslim prayer beads. For 20 years after that I carried tespih everywhere I went, including on clandestine trips into Serbia.
A gruesome nature unites every variety of fascism. The Stalinist counter-revolution promoted brutality, but was not, in my view, a product of brutalization as a doctrine, a method, a policy. Communism set out to elevate humanity; by contrast fascism seeks to destroy all elements of mercy, compassion, and kindness in the degraded beings it mobilizes. We see this in Trump’s public support for attacks on journalists.
Who was to blame at Srebrenica? The U.S. and other global powers that found it too demanding to restrain Serbia, first; but, behind the bloody events, Russia – the Russia that facilitated the Holocaust of the Jews, that slew its best leaders, that betrayed the Spanish Republic, that refused to fight imperialist Japan throughout the agony of China. Vlad the Impaler Putin now stands in solidarity with Mr. Bone Saw, crown prince of the Saudi kingdom.
Russia summoned other forces in the attack on Bosnia-Hercegovina. Like the Spanish Republic, which was divided and weak, and dedicated to a peaceful world, Bosnia was divided and appeared weak, and remains dedicated to a harmonious world in which Muslims, Christians and Jews cooperate.
Russia sent mercenaries to kill dissidents in Spanish Republican territory. In Bosnia and later in Kosovo, Russia called on homicidal elements in the political culture of the Orthodox Christian nations to join the aggression commandeered by Serbia. Romania, where I smiled in the sun and laughed in the night while people were killed at Srebrenica, contributed fascist volunteers to the “Orthodox crusade.”
But aside from Serbian terrorists, a special role was played at Srebrenica by Greeks.
I heard rumors about this when Srebrenica occurred. Later, when I worked in Kosovo, I was contacted by a heroic Greek journalist, Takis Michas, who risked the wrath of Athens, where the communists are fascists (that includes you, Varoufakis – IMHO), by exposing Greek complicity at Srebrenica.
Under Greek rule, Michas was as much endangered as Khashoggi. Journalists are the antifascist canaries in the coal mine of modern life.
But Michas persisted, documenting the Greek role in the rise of Serbian fascism after the 1980s. In his volume Unholy Alliance, he wrote, “Formed in March, 1995, at the request of Gen. Ratko Mladić, the ‘Greek Volunteer Guard’ – sporting as its insignia a white double-headed eagle on a black background—quickly became a regular fighting unit. Four of its members were decorated with the medal of the ‘White Eagle’ by Radovan Karadžić in September, 1995. A total of one hundred Greeks fought with the Serbs, and their main camp was in Vlasenica near Tuzla. According to spokesman George Mouratidis, the force was fully integrated into the Army of the Republika Srpska and led by Serb officers.”
Shoddy dictionaries define fascism as nationalistic, but fascism is as international as any other doctrine. The enemies of human liberty, and even of mere decency, are very many.
But so are those who defend human liberty and decency. One difference; after Srebrenica, U.S. president Bill Clinton acted to stop the Serbian carnage in Bosnia.
Must it be said? Trump will (I predict) take no action against Saudi Arabia.
Bosnia had millions of Muslims worldwide, as well as Christians and Jews of goodwill, on its side. Serbia had a horde of Greek, Russian, Romanian, and other criminals to fill the demoralized ranks of its fake army.
Who stands with the Saudi people? The same millions, but now seemingly powerless. Who stands with Mr. Bone Saw? ExxonMobil and Trump. Thank God Bosnia had little oil.
Guess where this bus is headed. The Dutch peacekeepers in Bosnia handed their uniforms and vehicles over to Mladić, who the world put in the driver’s seat.
World, welcome to Srebrenica.