Robert Spencer has kindly tweeted me a link to his new post on the most common charges laid against him, with his rebuttal here. I appreciate this is a generic reply rather than direct to me. I do not think Spencer advocates killing of Muslims or war crimes against them because they believe in Islam as I outlined here calling on the Home Secretary to allow him and Geller into the UK. I wanted Spencer in the UK to discuss Islam, jihad and how we combat religious extremism while encouraging secular values in the mainstream. Also so his critics could directly challenge him and we could see his response.
Back in June in my article “Huff and Puff On Srebrenica Genocide Denial” the following points were outlined:
Spencer remarked in his words that Srebrenica was a “genocide-that-never-was” meaning he was identifying with genocide deniers and not just reporting their articles and views.
Spencer remarked on the numbers killed at Srebrenica and other claims that countered established events: “Perhaps some challenge can be made to these claims, but it is a legitimate discussion that needs to be had.”
As a result I wrote the article “Huff and Puff On Srebrenica Genocide Denial” to challenge those claims and point out Robert Spencer did go beyond posting others views on Srebrenica not being a genocide but was identifying with their views rather than the established and proven account.
In my article I mention the painstaking identification of the victims that make up the 8,000 killed. I have asked if Robert agreed with this figure, and if not how many were killed – in fact every time Robert has sent me a tweet I have asked him. He has not answered.
Thankfully since June he has found the time to reply – so here is an excerpt relevant to what I have raised with him taken from here.
The charge: Robert Spencer denies the Srebrenica genocide and justifies Serbian war crimes against Muslims.
The facts: This charge implies that Spencer approves of violence against innocent Muslims, which is absolutely false. It is based on two (out of over 40,000) articles published at Jihad Watch in 2005 and 2009 questioning whether the massacre of Muslim civilians in Srebrenica in 1995, which was unquestionably heinous, rises to the level of an attempt to exterminate an entire people. Neither was written by Spencer and neither approves of the killing of Muslims or anyone. In “Srebrenica as Genocide? The Krstić Decision and the Language of the Unspeakable,” published in the Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal, Vol. VIII in 2005, Katherine G. Southwick writes:
In August 2001, a trial chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) handed down the tribunal’s first genocide conviction. In this landmark case, Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstić, the trial chamber determined that the 1995 Srebrenica massacres—in which Bosnian Serb forces executed 7,000-8,000 Bosnian Muslim men—constituted genocide. This Note acknowledges the need for a dramatic expression of moral outrage at the most terrible massacre in Europe since the Second World War. However, this Note also challenges the genocide finding. By excluding consideration of the perpetrators’ motives for killing the men, such as seeking to eliminate a military threat, the Krstić chamber’s method for finding specific intent to destroy the Bosnian Muslims, in whole or in part, was incomplete. The chamber also loosely construed other terms in the genocide definition, untenably broadening the meaning and application of the crime. The chamber’s interpretation of genocide in turn has problematic implications for the tribunal, enforcement of international humanitarian law, and historical accuracy. Thus highlighting instances where inquiry into motives may be relevant to genocide determinations, this Note ultimately argues for preserving distinctions between genocide and crimes against humanity, while simultaneously expanding the legal obligation to act to mass crimes that lack proof of genocidal intent.
If Spencer is guilty of “genocide denial,” so also is the Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal. In reality, neither are. The raising of legitimate questions does not constitute either the denial or the excusing of the evils that Serbian forces perpetrated at Srebrenica or anywhere else.
Comparing the rebuttal with previous posts by Spencer
So Spencer has finally established Srebrenica for him was not a genocide, but denying is about the terms validity not the atrocity itself in this new rebuttal. Katherine Southwick outlined that while stating “In characterizing the massacre of 8,000 military-aged Bosnian Muslim men as genocide, the chamber used the most potent expression possible.”
The problem was in his posts Spencer wanted us to do more than query if it failed a definition of genocide. He invited us to speculate whether the atrocity at Srebrenica may be fabricated, decrying anti-jihadists who failed:
to consider the possibility that Muslims could have carried out any deceptive atrocity-manufacturing in the Balkans. Indeed, some even charge that anyone who thinks that Balkan Islamic jihadists carried out any deception at all must be secretly a sympathizer of this genocide-that-never-was.
Spencer also quoted Jonathan Rooper for us to discuss this claim:
The premise that Serbian forces executed 7,000 to 8,000 people “was never a possibility,”
In the past he has wanted to cast doubt on the extent of the atrocity – when in the current rebuttal it is whether massacre is a more appropriate word to genocide. It is this combined with not wanting to call Srebrenica a genocide which make it look less than a call for a legitimate inquiry and more that of promoting genocide denial claims despite the evidence to the contrary. By quoting the note stating “Bosnian Serb forces executed 7,000-8,000 Bosnian Muslim men” in his rebuttal you may be forgiven for not thinking, unless you had read his previous articles, that this figure is for him “a legitimate discussion.”
We can see his current rebuttal as a positive move away from earlier expressing interest in what genocide deniers had to say about the Srebrenica Genocide. If he is after a debate now on the legal use of calling the events a genocide – rather than what has been established happened – this is a positive step in the right direction. If he still stands by his earlier comments the rebuttal is more a deflection from earlier controversial minority views on Srebrenica he repeated.
A genocide by any other name
Genocidal intent has been demonstrated in court since the note he quotes from 2005. In a follow up article marking the 18th anniversary of Srebrenica in 2013 in The Commentator Denial over Srebrenica dealt blow over Karadzic ruling I mentioned:
This week, the UN Yugoslav War Crime Court ruled to uphold a charge that Radovan Karadzic had genocidal intent in his actions at the start of the 1992 conflict. Despite court rulings that the specific events and circumstances in the fall of Srebrenica were genocide, some still argue against this without consulting the volume of evidence collected.
In the link above on court rulings the International Court of Justice in 2007 had this to say:
The Applicant had argued that the specific intent could be inferred from the pattern of atrocities. The Court could not accept this. The specific intent has to be convincingly shown by reference to particular circumstances; a pattern of conduct will only be accepted as evidence of its existence if genocide is the only possible explanation for the conduct concerned.
However, there was an important exception to these findings. The Court found that there was conclusive evidence that killings and acts causing serious bodily or mental harm targeting the Bosnian Muslims took place in Srebrenica in July 1995. These acts were directed by the Main Staff of the VRS (the army of the Republika Srpska) who possessed the specific intent required for genocide.
Those denying Srebrenica was a genocide are wrong when they say intent has not been established. It has been.
A Legitimate Discussion
I believe in free speech, and nothing should be off limits for people to debate even if others may have hurt sensibilities – with war crimes the pain for survivors is as legitimate as any free ranging discussion. However, we do get to judge how people respond to the mass of evidence regarding the Srebrenica genocide, and Robert himself feels hurt when the implications of what he said are laid out to him – I would counter his feelings and outrage are nothing compared to the survivors who have read his past words. Robert handles himself well in TV and radio interviews, even when provoked. This is at odds with twitter – where name calling, mud slinging and insults have been the order of the day to his critics. Mind you, he gets enough vulgar tweets back at him.
Hopefully a legitimate discussion might entail proper dialogue rather than further playground taunts. So I appreciate Robert taking the time and sending me the link. Who knows it could be the beginning of a civil discussion. It seems Spencer is distancing himself from his previous remarks where he wanted us to question what happened at Srebrenica despite the evidence.
Maybe one day Robert will tell us whether he genuinely thinks “Balkan Islamic jihadists carried out any deception” in Srebrenica or that the figure of 7-8000 executed never happened. Till then he will be accused of smoke and mirrors with his latest rebuttal over what he has actually written in the past.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog