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Post Did Putin "Free" Crimea? Nonsense
Created by John Eipper on 09/13/18 12:34 PM

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Did Putin "Free" Crimea? Nonsense (Istvan Simon, USA, 09/13/18 12:34 pm)

Eugenio Battaglia (Sept 8th) said that Putin "freed" Crimea from Ukraine, and that he does not think Crimea should belong to Ukraine.

I have a few comments about this. First, I find Eugenio's cavalier attitude about the dismemberment of other people's countries appalling. Second, clearly international borders are not determined by ethnicity, nor historical precedent. If this were so, Hungary could just retake Transylvania from Romania for example, or Mexico retake Texas, Arizona and California from the United States, and the Kurds would have had their country carved out from Iraq, Iran and Turkey long ago.

The result of applying Eugenio's ideas would lead to total chaos in international relations and surely to World War III.

JE comments:  Acting out on revanchism has been taboo since 1945--arguably since Westphalia.  The remarkable thing about Putin's action (unlike Saddam Hussein in Kuwait) is that he got away with it.

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  • Crimea: Russian or Ukrainian? (Nigel Jones, UK 09/14/18 2:08 PM)
    Just for the historical record, Crimea--as anyone who has ever been there will know--is now and always has been Russian. It was placed under the administrative control of Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev (who began his career running Ukraine for Stalin) in the early 1960s.

    In annexing it for Russia once more, Putin may well have broken international law--just as the West did in invading Iraq in 2003--but he was righting a wrong done to Russia. Significantly, there was no resistance to the annexation from the people of the Crimea themselves.

    JE comments:  The accepted date for the switch goes back further, to 1954.  If so, then how different is 1954 from 1945, when Breslau became Polish and Lwow Soviet?  Konigsberg is still Russian.  The Poles also believe Wilno (Vilnius) is historically theirs.  Go to any cemetery in Vilnius, as we did last year, and there are many more dead Poles than dead Lithuanians. 

    There is no end to the geographical "wrongs" that could be "righted."  Revanchism is a dangerous precedent, slippery slope, etc.

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  • Revanchism: What About Israel? (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 09/15/18 4:34 AM)
    Istvan Simon (September 13th) is correct in saying that "other people's countries" cannot be dismembered.

    This is certainly true of Golan occupied by Israel, as well as Jerusalem, etc.

    JE comments: Is Israel the ultimate example of revanchism--removed by a few millennia?  "Next year in Jerusalem." 

    Greetings again to our long-silent colleague in Los Angeles, Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich.  Soraya, when time permits send an update!

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    • Israeli Revanchism and Serbian Revanchism (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 09/16/18 6:53 AM)

      Gary Moore writes:

      In reply to JE and Soraya Sepapour-Ulich (September 15) on whether Israel is the ultimate in revanchism, on a claim ticket of 2,000 years:

      In the 1980s Slobodan Milosevic, busy trying to turn Yugoslavia into Greater Serbia, on a claim aged a mere half-millennium or so (back to Stefan Dušan), reached out enthusiastically to Israel,
      proposing they make common cause in the grand design of getting the land back for Chosen Peoples.
      Israel apparently made no reply.

      JE comments:  The Greater Serbia scheme has quite a track record, such as sparking the Great War.  Can we divide all peoples into two groups:  those who think of themselves as Chosen, and those who don't?

      A question for the worldwide WAISitudes:  is there any people that doesn't see itself as chosen?

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      • Revanchism and "Chosen" Peoples (Henry Levin, USA 09/17/18 3:47 AM)
        In response to Gary Moore and John E (September 16th), I am not convinced that the term "chosen" explains the revanchism of the Jews and the stubbornness of the State of Israel.

        The Jewish Diaspora of two thousand years ago was hardly a result of its "chosen status." And the experience in the Diaspora, no matter how accommodating or assimilating of the Jews with local populations, did not create acceptance of the "outsider," even after conversion to Christianity. Jews were simply not accepted by the countries of its diaspora, and we all know how the chosen became the victims of the Holocaust.

        So, perhaps you should say more about what you see as the link between the chosen and revanchism unless your remark was careless or flippant. Do you really take every scribble found in holy books as living testimony on the status of a population justifying its behavior?

        JE comments: I did not mean to offend, Hank, but apologize for doing so. In fact, I was specifically not singling out specific groups when I asked: "Is there any people that doesn't see itself as Chosen?" 

        Your question about the link between revanchism and "chosen" status is complex, and touches on the formation of identities and the texts that provide theoretical underpinnings.  "Foundational" texts do not define a people, but they are often cited to justify political actions, including revanchism.

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      • Israeli "Revanchism"? (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 09/18/18 4:36 AM)
        Response to John E and Gary Moore (September 16th):

        I thank JE for his kind greetings, though I am no longer in Los Angeles and have lived in Orange County for many years now.

        As for revanchism, those were JE's comments. I did not in any shape or form imply that Israeli actions are revanchist. This would imply that the occupied land belonged to Israel at one point in time (here the marker has been placed at 2000 years, per JE to which Mr. Moore responded). I do not accept this.

        For over 5000 years, the ancient Land of Canaan has been conquered by various people who lived on this land. These included Egyptian, Turkish, Assyrian, Persian, and Jewish (David and Solomon and the Ten Tribes of Israel).

        In this long history of conquest and habitation, inarguably, the Canaanites were the first, which gave them priority; their descendants have continued to live there, which gives them continuity; and with the exception of the refugees chased out by Israel, they continue to live there. The Canaanites are the Palestinians or the Arab population of today. The Atlantic Charter--self-governing right--applies to the Palestinians.

        Moreover, according to some literature, on every Jewish festival, Jewish voices say: "Umipnay chatoenu golinu mayartsaynu"--"Because of our sins we were expelled from our land." It is believed that at a predestined time, God will send the Jews the Messiah and they will be able to return to the Promised Land. Jews are to accept exile and not attempt to force their way back. They stayed away from Jerusalem for over 2,000 years because their religion forbade them from returning, not because they could not return. Yet today, those who are violating the laws of man and lay claim to "Eretz Yisrael" as God's land promised to them, are the ones who are betraying the very God they pretend to worship.

        So whether it is the laws of man or the laws of God, I do not consider Israeli occupation as revanchism. And I certainly do not overlook the US role in the occupation.

        When we point a finger at Russia, we point four fingers at ourselves.

        JE comments: My understanding of revanchism is that it is foremost a political act, in which history is cited as justification for present-day agendas.  Revanchism relies on the assumption that one's ancestors, at a point in history that "works" for the argument, determine one's right to a parcel of territory.  Revanchism also requires an antagonist--occupier, usurper, conqueror, what have you.  Thus every revanchist claim has a counter-claim, which is why the situations often, perhaps inevitably, result in war.

        Is Zionism a revanchist ideology?  Yes.  Is the Palestinian resistance also revanchist?  Absolutely.

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      • "Chosen" Peoples (Istvan Simon, USA 09/21/18 4:00 AM)

        Regarding the Chosen People idea, I have to answer JE negatively.  (See John's reply to Gary Moore, September 16.)

        Most Jews are not religious and do not believe they are chosen in any way. But religious Jews take it seriously, because the Torah says so. Which reminds me of the joke in which a Jew, tired of relentless merciless persecution, a constant of Jewish life for thousands of years, looks up at the heavens and asks God, "Can't you choose someone else for a while?"

        There are so few Jews in the world precisely because Orthodox Jews take the "chosen people" seriously. Unlike Christians and Muslims, Jews do not proselytize. In fact, strictly speaking, it is impossible to convert to Judaism, though less Orthodox Rabbis do perform conversions.

        One of my best Jewish friends married an American Christian woman while working on his PhD. She converted to Judaism and became ultra-observant. My friend is an only child. His father had died when he was in his teens. Understandably, he and his mother grew very close to each other as she brought him up by herself.

        I have to say that she meddled in their marriage quite a bit, which she should not have, and often criticized my friend's wife. I had been her friend for many years, and always loved her wonderful sense of humor. Once I called her on the phone and she mentioned that her daughter-in-law had just reminded her about some minor Jewish holiday that she had ignored. She said: " You know, Betty is so religious because she has been Jewish for hardly a year. In thousands of years we had more time to forget."

        JE comments: Ah, the healing powers of forgetting!  However, no less an authority than Wikipedia (I'm teasing about the "authority") claims that 2/3 of Jewish Israelis believe they are chosen:


        I wasn't anticipating so many objections to my original remark.  My aim was to universalize the "chosen" concept.  To Old Testament teachings, we can add US Manifest Destiny or Japanese Co-Prosperity.  What about 19th-century British imperialism and the White Man's Burden?  Specifically in my earlier comments, I was wondering out loud if any of the world's people explicitly see themselves as inferior--"not chosen," if you will.

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  • Changing Borders is NOT Taboo (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 09/15/18 4:56 AM)
    Following the typically forceful comments from Istvan Simon, 13 September, it may be a good idea to begin a discussion on ethnic problems.

    Democracy is the will of the people, and theoretically we always have to keep this in mind.

    Borders can move either due to imperialism or due to the will of the people that want to be reunited to their brethren. The first is criminal but the second is sacred.

    European borders were criminally drawn after WWI and even more so after WWII.  See the book by Giles MacDonogh After the Reich, From the Liberation of Vienna to the Berlin Airlift, together with many others. Some 350,000 Italian citizens were kicked out of their homes (not 250,000 as I erroneously indicated).  This includes the former Yugoslavia plus many thousands from Africa and also some from the territory taken by France (this is almost never remembered).

    The changing of borders after 1945 is not taboo.  They have been changed many times in Europe.

    When such changes were profitable to the Empire they were considered very good: consider the reunification of Germany (our so-called great politician and PM Giulio Andreotti used to say: I love Germany so much that I prefer to have two of them), the separation of Czechoslovakia, the implosion of the USSR with so many new nations, and the creation of seven new states from Yugoslavia. But changing borders was bad when it did not favor the Empire--Transnitria, South Ossetia, Abkazia and Crimea.  Crimea is the worst example, as Sevastopol instead of remaining a Russian Navy base could have become a naval base for the Empire.

    Istvan is correct about Transylvania, as it it is inhabited by a Hungarian population of 6.1% or about 1,200,000, as per the criminal borders in 1918, which were corrected in 1941 and then returned to the 1918 borders in 1945.

    However, when the ethnic population is not a huge consolidated group, a change of borders may not be feasible.  In such cases, some type of special protection is imperative.

    Any empire prefers to neutralize the ethnic national states because they may be uncontrollable.  This explains the push to globalization, multiculturalism and other politically correct new strange civil rights like the recent one of New York where you may not be any more Male or Female but X.

    Unfortunately, on top of it, the Empire of our time is dominated by extreme capitalism, which pushes for greater immigration in order to have a mass of potential workers who in order to get a piece of bread will be ready to accept ever-lower wages.

    Of course European ethnic national problems could be far away from the overseas way of life, even if

    uncontrolled immigration seems to create problems there too.

    JE comments:  I don't follow Eugenio Battaglia's final point.  But his central question is interesting:  We all know about the fragmentation of Yugoslavia, the USSR, and the Czech-Slovak divorce.  Is this redrawing borders per se?  An interesting case study may be found in Macedonia.  Greece became nervous about revanchist claims on its own Macedonian region, and forced the new nation to take the clumsy name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  Bizarre, but such is the Byzantine nature of geopolitics.

    Eugenio's use of "Empire" to refer to the United States is irritating to many in WAISworld.  My objection is different:  is this characterization accurate?  I think it gives way too much credit to an assumed US omnipotence.  A case in point:  were all the new nations of Europe after 1991 made possible through the "Imperial" blessing?  How, for instance, was the Empire to benefit from the Czech-Slovak split?  Or Yugoslavia's dismemberment, which caused massive human suffering and headaches to the Clinton administration?

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    • My Thoughts on Revanchism, Changing Borders, Crimea (Istvan Simon, USA 09/16/18 4:59 PM)
      Eugenio Battaglia (September 15) wants to discuss ethnic problems. I have no objection.

      WAISers who follow my posts know that I have frequently disagreed with of Eugenio's opinions. I note with some satisfaction what may come as a surprise for Eugenio: I largely agree with most of but not all he wrote in his September 15 post. Indeed, I do not consider borders unchangeable at all. I have just written so separately, in response to Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich a few hours ago.

      However, Eugenio and I approach this question from completely different points of view. To begin with, generally speaking, I am predisposed against borders--they encourage division, nationalism and tribalism, all of which I am philosophically opposed to. Borders are in many ways artificial barriers between people, that separate and in many cases even enslave people into lives that they wish not to live. I am sympathetic to refugees, perhaps due to my own experience as one, and I view with sympathy those who want to escape the accident of their birth in some particular place.

      It is difficult to leave one's land of birth and venture into the unknown of living in a new country, with different customs, languages and norms. It requires courage and determination to adapt and succeed, traits which are to be admired in immigrants, legal or illegal. I am generally empathetic to people in that situation, I feel their pain and despair, and therefore from this point of view, borders are an obstacle to be overcome, sometimes truly abhorrent obstacles to easing human suffering. For instance, how can anyone be indifferent to the horrifying image of little 3-year-old Alain Kurdi dead on the beach in Turkey?  His cruel death is a powerful cry against borders and their callous inhumanity.

      Having said this, I recognize that a world completely without borders is a world that is not feasible or practical, a currently unattainable utopia. So I accept the need for borders on practical, pragmatic grounds, which impose at least a semblance of order and makes it possible to separate good government from bad, lands of law from lands that are lawless. Also, one can say that borders protect different cultures, which I consider to be a a good side-effect of their existence. Having accepted borders as a necessity, it follows that there should be some resistance to their arbitrary change, particularly their change by naked aggression and brute force as in my opinion occurred in the Crimea. I therefore strongly oppose the illegal annexation of the Crimea by Russia.

      It matters not if Russia could lose access to naval base or not, something that bothers Eugenio but not me. Russia does not have a God-given right to a naval base in Ukraine. It could try to negotiate with Ukraine access to their base in Sebastopol, and pay adequate monetary compensation to Ukraine for its use. Instead it stole this access from Ukraine. It should be condemned for it.

      It is a bogus false accusation by Eugenio that whether I approve or not of a change of borders has to do with whether it is favorable or not to the United States. This is pure nonsense. I would have no objection to the change in sovereignty in Crimea if it happened through truly democratic means, if Ukraine had agreed to the change, which it did not, and if it was done peacefully, according to the will of the peoples involved. But it did not happen so. It was done by naked aggression, brute force, by lying cheating, underhanded dishonorable and dishonest methods. It should be opposed in the strongest terms, by strong sanctions and even war if necessary. Russia's annexation of the Crimea was not done democratically, nor was it necessary, much less justifiable. Had Russia had a more reasonable modest approach, more respectful of the will of Ukrainians, it might have been a different story. It should be also noted that Russia promised all sorts of development in Crimea, which did not happen. According to numerous reports people in the Crimea have declared unambiguously post-annexation that conditions in the Crimea are now much worse than they were under Ukrainian administration.  The will of the people that Eugenio says is so sacred for him is simply not there.

      From my point of view, the most marvelous example of change of borders, a model lesson to the world of how to do it in a civilized way, is the example of the peaceful divorce between the Czech republic and Slovakia. I should note that when this was originally proposed I was against it, thinking that the two countries living in peace for decades would be weakened by this fragmentation. But I was proven wrong by events. Slovakia and the Czech Republic are viable countries, and both prospered after the break up. So who am I to be a nay-sayer?

      The breakup of Yugoslavia, is a completely different matter. Everyone who knows the region knew decades before it happened that Yugoslavia was an artificial and unnatural construct held together only by the iron fist dictatorship of Tito, and that it would fall apart as soon as Tito was dead. WAIS has quite a few experts on the conditions and tensions that existed in this area, and this has been discussed numerous times in this Forum. The falling apart of Yugoslavia happened exactly as predicted, and again contrary to the baseless accusations of Eugenio, Yugoslavia's demise had nothing at all to do with the United States.

      Similarly, Andrei Amalrik predicted the breakup of the Soviet Union like only a prophet could. He turned out to be right and far-seeing, where almost everyone else was wrong, never imagining that it could ever occur. Once again, the breakup of the Soviet Union happened not because of influence of the United States. It is certainly true that this breakup was in our interest and we were delighted with this development, but we did not cause it. If anything, it caught the United States completely by surprise, and created a number of thorny issues in which the United States was involved involved in the aftermath. For example the transfer of nuclear weapons from Ukraine and other Republics to Russia. All sorts of guarantees were given to Ukraine by both the United States and Russia for this transfer to take place, which in retrospect were not worth the toilet paper on which they were written. All the promises were shamelessly ignored.

      This has much to do with the discussion on the dismemberment of Ukraine, a major violation of the accords signed then that no one has mentioned yet in this discussion. If I were Ukraine, I would conclude bitterly that the country should have maintained control of its nukes, which might very well have avoided the disgraceful shameful acts of war and aggression that Russia committed against the sovereign territory of its neighbor and former Republic.

      Going back to ethnic origin, I reaffirm that ethnic background does not determine nor should necessarily determine borders. The United States is the most successful example of a multi-ethnic society in the world, but not the only one. Very successful multi-ethnic countries include also Brazil, Switzerland and Israel for example. It should be a reason of pride for our success in this area, a success that is being undermined by the president that we currently have, shame on him.

      JE comments:  Are the Crimean people (materially) better off under Russian control?  We've seen two conflicting answers today.  Luciano Dondero this morning said yes, and now Istvan Simon argues the opposite.  What gives?

      A related question:  By what scenario would Russian return the peninsula to Ukraine?  I cannot think of any.  Despite what Istvan says above, nobody has the stomach for war against Putin.

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      • Yugoslavia as an Artificial State (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 09/17/18 2:19 PM)
        Our friend Istvan Simon on 17 September wrote: "Everyone who knows the region knew decades before it happened that Yugoslavia was an artificial and unnatural construction."

        In my opinion, Istvan never wrote more accurate words.

        However I did not expect that Istvan could implicitly condemn the silly actions of the US delegation at the peace table after WWI, which per instructions from President Wilson called for the creation of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenians against Italy. At the time, even the proposal to grant bilingual status to the Albanians of Kosovo was vetoed, stating that such act would have weakened the new state. At that time, Italy was acting as a protector of Albania.

        Furthermore it seems that Istvan approves of the same borders created by the Axis powers in 1941 and the creation of the Kingdom of Croatia, the kingdom of Montenegro, the republic of Serbia, the union of the Albanian part of Kosovo (not the Serbian part as so stupidly done now) and Macedonia to Albania, and very small territories of Dalmatia (formerly Venetian and still populated by Italians) to Italy. The Axis also transferred Hungarian Backa (Bascka) to Hungary, and the rest of Macedonia to Bulgaria, as the Macedonian language is a dialect of the Bulgarian language (or vice versa if you prefer).

        Slovenia was split between Italy and the Third Reich.  This was a great mistake. At the end of war, Tito killed 60,000 "white" Slovenian collaborators, including 14,000 Domobranci (Slovene Home Guard) who had surrendered to the British Forces with the hope of not being turned over to the Communists.  But the commander of the 8° British Army betrayed them, as he did with the 300,000 Ustasha.

        JE comments:  I've read a lot about the Croatian Ustashe and their terrifying reputation.  Their violence against the Jews and Orthodox Serbs is the stuff of horror films.   The Slovenian Domobranci were also allied with Nazi Germany, but less well known.  Were they equally bloodthirsty?  Wikipedia tells us the Domobranci numbered about 13,000.  Did they all face the murderous wrath of Tito?

        So, was the Yugoslavian experiment a "mistake"?  Remember the union's "happier" days, say the 1960s and '70s, when Yugoslavia had the reputation in the West as the most benign of the communist states?

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        • Arming the Sandinistas: A Secret Document (Timothy Brown, USA 09/18/18 9:23 AM)
          I'm piggy-backing on Eugenio Battaglia's latest post to slip into the narrative on Nicaragua some information on how well the other side of the Cold War is doing today.

          At the time the Iran-Contra scandal was being trumpeted in Congress, on university campuses and in the American press, many were demanding that Reagan be impeached for his immoral, illegal and unconstitutional "Iran-Contra" gambit in an effort to support the anti-Sandinista "Contras."

          All support for the Contras absolutely had to be stopped immediately in the name of humanity, by cutting off all US support for them. I find that a bit extreme since, simultaneously the Cold War was still underway and Iran (plus Yemen, Libya, Bulgaria, North Korea and Algeria) were providing military-grade arms to the Sandinistas in overwhelming quantities so they could defeat the Contras. (The data below is taken from an official secret Sandinista Army's inventory that was smuggled out by a defector some years ago.)

          I find the reasoning behind the anti-Contra hysteria of the day a bit odd since, after all the anti-Contra and pro-Sandinistas hullaballus of the 1980s and '90s in order to save the self-same Sandinista regime that's now openly authoritarian dictatorship far, far worse than the Somozas ever were. The activist Left is fully responsible for the existence of the "authoritarian socialist" (the word Marxist is currently anathema during any public discourse) dictatorship in today's Nicaragua--a dictatorship that's killing unarmed civilians by the hundreds.

          Or am I being too harsh on the well-intentioned Sandinista regime?

          JE comments:  See below.  (Scroll down a bit.)  Imagine the 257,000 "fusiles" (presumably AK-47s), and where they ended up in such a tiny country.

          Tim, what can you tell us about the provenance of the document?

          There's no denying that Nicaragua was a major "hot" theater of the Cold War.  But Tim, there's one troubling detail left out in your description of Iran-Contra:  the US Congress had outlawed funding the Contras.


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          • Funding the Nicaraguan Contras (Timothy Brown, USA 09/20/18 3:33 AM)
            The source of the document from which I extracted data in my last post (September 18th) was brought out of Nicaragua by an aide to the Sandinista General Staff in November 1987.

            Having published numerous articles and a few books, including my PhD dissertation, on the whole Contra mess, I had to leave out quite a few "details" in my post.  For example, according to now-declassified documents of several provenances, USG funds were expended prior to the inauguration of Reagan. In pages 86-97, chapter 4, in my When the AK-47s Fall Silent (Hoover, 2000) former Sandinista "Comandante Martínez," Alejandro Martínez Sáez describes how he and several other non-Marxist Comandantes had been pushed aside after the FSLN Nine took power in Nicaragua.

            In December of 1980 Martínez was approached and asked to go to Washington, DC to discuss his possible assumption of command of a US irregular force being organized to fight against the Sandinistas. US Immigration authorized his entry into the US on January 16, 1981. Reagan was inaugurated on January 20, 1981. A recently declassified CIA document lists three PDDs prior to Reagan's election.

            In 1986 Congress authorized sufficient funds for Reagan to continue support for the Contras for almost two years. Congress defunded the Contra program during Bush's tenure.

            From 1986 through most of 1990, I was Senior Liaison Officer (SLO) in Central America to the Nicaraguan Democratic Resistance, both its civilian and military sides.

            JE comments:  I had to look up PDD:  Presidential Decision Directive?  Tim, do I understand correctly that the Contras received their initial US sponsorship prior to Reagan--meaning under Carter?

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        • Ustashe or Tito: Who was Worse? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 09/20/18 4:03 AM)
          In response to John E's comment of September 17th, of course you can see horror films with the Ustashe as they lost the war. Otherwise you would have seen films of horror about Tito's communist partisans. The peoples of the Balkans of all political types can be very violent.

          In the West only the most gullible (and the bloodthirsty ex-partisan Socialist President of the Italian Republic Pertini, the bloody fool went to his funeral to kiss the coffin) thought that Tito was benign. After all, wasn't Stalin was considered the good old Uncle Joe?

          JE comments: I cannot accept the notion of historical relativism when it comes to the Croatian Ustashe. Their ghastly track record would have stood on its own, victor's justice or not. I've read that even the SS found Ustashe methods wantonly cruel, inspiring them (the SS) occasionally to intervene on behalf of victims.  To Mussolini's credit, the Italians were known as the gentlest occupiers of the Balkans.

          One detail of Ustashe ideology always puzzled me. They were fiercely Catholic and despised Orthodox Christians, but they embraced the Bosnian Muslims.  I assume it was a marriage of convenience:  both the Bosnian Muslims and the Catholic Croats loathed the Serbs.  There's nothing like the unifying power of...hatred.

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